A guide to Australian road safety, rules and regulations to make your driving holiday in Australia safer and more enjoyable.
DRIVING IN AUSTRALIA
If you wish to drive in Australia, you must hold a valid international driving permit accompanied by the driver licence issued in the country you live in.
Australians drive on the left side of two-way roads. Ask passengers to remind you of this every time you set off and when you are turning at an intersection. You should always remember to look right, then left and then right again when you are walking across the street if there are no traffic lights close by.
Seatbelts and child restraints
Seatbelts must always be worn when driving. All passengers in the car must also wear seatbelts. Children under age 7 must be in a child restraint appropriate for the child’s size and weight.
Obey the road signs
You should familiarise yourself with the road signs in Australia and make sure you obey them.
Where the centre line marking on the road is a single broken line, vehicles may cross the line to overtake when it is safe to do so. If the centre marking has two lines you must not overtake if the line closest to your vehicle is unbroken. Where arrows are painted on the road, you must only drive in the direction they indicate.
Speed limits are enforced in Australia
Speed limits are strictly enforced in Australia. The speed limit is the maximum speed permitted on that road and you must not drive above the speed limit at any time. Some roads do not have visible speed limit signs, but speed limits still apply. You should be especially careful in residential areas and in school zones.
ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND MOBILE PHONES
Alcohol and drugs
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous and Australia has very serious penalties if you are caught doing this. In Australia, you are not permitted to drive a car if your blood alcohol level is 0.05 per cent or higher. If you hold a probationary or provisional driver’s licence, your blood alcohol level must be zero at all times. Driving after taking drugs that affect your ability to drive is illegal and penalties are severe.
No mobile phones
You are not permitted to use a handheld mobile phone when driving. This includes making or receiving calls, texting, playing games or web browsing.
DRIVING IN REMOTE AND RURAL AREAS
Take a break and arrive safely
It is common to travel long distances in Australia, so you should plan your journey to include several rest breaks and ensure you have enough petrol for your journey. Rest areas are located every 80-100 kilometres (50-62 miles) on main highways and roads for people to pull over and rest when tired.
Driving in rural and remote areas
Driving in rural and remote areas requires special driving skills and awareness of different road conditions. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and that it has been serviced recently. Always carry a spare tyre, tools and extra water. If you are travelling to remote areas off major highways, make sure you have plenty of fuel as well as food and water. Our remote areas have long distances between towns and facilities so it’s important that you plan your trip before setting off. If you are planning to travel to remote areas that are not on major highways, you should inform family or friends of your intended route and expected arrival time (ETA). You may also consider hiring emergency communications equipment like a satellite phone or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) device.
Road conditions can vary from a sealed road surface to gravel and unsealed roads. You should have a four-wheel drive (4WD) if you are travelling on unsealed roads. You should also avoid speeding on unsealed roads to avoid dangerous hazards like holes, soft road edges and changing road surfaces. If you do drive off the side of a road, don’t overcorrect, but slow down and return to the road when the vehicle is travelling at a safe speed. Obey road closure signs.
Changing road conditions due to floods and bushfires
Australia is a land of extreme weather conditions where some parts of the country may be affected by floods and other parts may be experiencing other extreme weather conditions such as bushfires or cyclones. You should always plan your trip in advance and check for local weather conditions in the area you are travelling to. You should not attempt to cross flooded roads as flood waters often have strong currents which can sweep your vehicle away. You can contact the local State Emergency Service (SES) or call 000 if you are in an emergency situation.
WILDLIFE AND ARTICULATED TRUCKS
Watch out for wildlife and livestock
Watch out for wildlife on the road, such as kangaroos, emus, wombats and koalas. Livestock such as cattle may also graze on the side of an unfenced road. You should always be travelling at a safe speed, so if an animal crosses in front of you, you can further reduce your speed. Do not attempt to swerve your car violently or you can roll off the road.
Road trains or articulated trucks that can be as long as the length of 10 cars, can take up to 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) to overtake if you’re travelling at 100 kilometres per hour (62mph). Allow plenty of room before you try to overtake a road train as they often sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the windrush when passing as it can pull you towards the road train.
BREAK DOWNS AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE
If your vehicle breaks down
If your vehicle breaks down, do not leave your vehicle as it will provide you with shade and protection from weather conditions. Wait for help to come to you.
000 is the number for emergency services in Australia. They can connect you to Police, Ambulance or the Fire Brigade. You should only contact 000 in an emergency.
E-TAGS AND E-TOLLS
Many of the motorways around major cities in Australia are toll roads, meaning you have to pay a toll to use them. Some are also fully electronic, so you can’t pay the toll with cash at a tollbooth. Instead, you need to pay the toll with an electronic tag or a pass. You can set up a pass before you leave home or up to three days after you use the road. E-tags can often be used on motorways throughout Australia, but it is best to check with the local state roads and traffic authority to avoid fines.
Car rental in Australia can be extremely cost effective when planning to travel around Australia by road. When renting a car in Australia, there are certain essential requirements which are common across the car rental industry, including holding a valid driver’s licence; a credit card as a form of security; and passport for ID. You will find most of the major international car rental companies in Australia including Avis Car Rental, Hertz, Thrifty, Budget and Europcar.
MOTORCYCLE AND BICYCLE SAFETY
If you a riding a motorcycle, moped, motor scooter or bicycle, you are required to wear a helmet at all times. If you are riding on a road, you must obey all road signs and traffic signals, including speed limits. You should always pay careful attention to road conditions and always allow plenty of room. Use your indicator if you are changing lanes or overtaking. Ride with headlights on and wear protective clothing.