Be prepared for the road ahead – driving conditions may be unfamiliar to visitors and can change quickly.
Australia is a vast continent with wide open spaces, unique wildlife and many different environments. It is important to pay close attention to surroundings, adjust to the driving conditions and take rest stops.
Drivers should be aware of sunrise and sunset times, weather forecasts and travel times – and listen to local radio stations to reduce the likelihood of unexpected road or traffic conditions. In addition to other motor vehicles, cars share the road with bicycles in many parts of the country, and pedestrian crossings are common. Cars are expected to obey the law and give way to pedestrians. It is important to be familiar with road signs and markings, particularly unique signs such as wildlife warning signs.
There are plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track and explore the wilderness of the outback. Road conditions vary greatly and care needs to be taken in remote areas to ensure visitors are prepared.
Carry supplies for a variety of weather conditions and pack maps and GPS equipment to avoid getting lost. Leave an itinerary with friends or local authorities and check in regularly during the journey.
The north of Australia is especially prone to extreme weather conditions. Roads that are easily passable during the dry season, March to November, can turn into a raging river in the rainy season within a short amount of time.
Road trains are often found in the outback. These are trucks with multiple trailers and a length of up to 50 metres. Always leave sufficient space when a road train passes and only overtake with a clear view of at least 1.5 kilometres or approximately 1 mile.
From stunning coastlines and majestic alpine villages to outback highways and lush rainforests, Australia’s National Parks provide spectacular settings for self-drive visitors to Australia to explore.
Always travel at a safe speed to allow for unexpected road conditions such as fallen branches and wildlife on the road. You should expect to encounter animals on the road at any time, especially at night as many are attracted to vehicle headlights. Accidents with some wildlife such as a kangaroo or wombat could lead to significant damage to the car and personal injury, in the worst case.
Drivers should not swerve suddenly to avoid obstacles or wildlife, and should always stay on the road. Visitors should check into visitor centres to obtain any required permits, to get an update on current road conditions and to check in with authorities. Always carry enough fuel, food and water for the journey and remove all waste.
Sharing the Roads
Drivers in Australia must share the road with other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. It is important to keep to the left when not overtaking and always be aware of other vehicles on the road.
Motorcycles and scooters can legally weave through slow or stopped traffic, so it is important to monitor mirrors to avoid accidents. When parallel parking, ensure to check for passing cyclists and motorcycles before opening doors to exit the vehicle.
Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users, but are more vulnerable. Cyclists and motorists need to consider each other and share the road safely. Some roads have separate bicycle lanes however, bicycles are permitted on all roads other than major highways as signposted.
Pedestrian crossings are common on Australian roads so it is important to always look for pedestrians at crossings and intersections and slow down upon approach.
Driving between points of interest in Australia can often include large distances and long journeys. It is important to break up the journey to stay alert and avoid becoming tired. Early warning signs include yawning, restlessness, oversteering and poor concentration. It is recommended to stop every two hours to get fresh air and drink plenty of water.
Rest areas are located on major roads across Australia and are clearly signposted. Many have bathroom facilities and some offer ‘driver reviver’, free tea and coffee during public and school holidays.
When travelling in a group it is recommended to share the driving. Always check hire car and/or insurance details of the vehicle and be familiar with driver eligibility requirements for any relevant policies.
Be sure to avoid distractions when driving, particularly mobile phones, eating and drinking or smoking. Always stop the vehicle before adjusting settings.