Even if you drive regularly in your home country, it is always a good idea to know the traffic rules of the country you’re visiting. Travelling in Australia is a lovely experience, no doubt. Taking the time to familiarise yourself with the road laws and regulations in the country can make it even better! It means you’ll have greater peace of mind while enjoying your time in this beautiful country.
Major Rules for Driving in Australia
- Alcohol and Driving
The general rule of thumb is that driving and alcohol do not go hand in hand not just in Australia, but in most countries around the world. In Australia however, driving under the influence is taken very seriously by the authorities. The legal limits vary in different states and it gets stricter for rental cars. To be on the safer side, it is better to avoid drinking completely if you intend to drive.
- Left-side Drive
Like the U.K. and India, driving in Australia is left-sided, which means you should stick to the lanes to the left. If you are from the U.S. and other countries where sticking to the right side is the norm, it might take you some time to get used to the difference. Also, making a U-turn at a traffic signal is not legal in some regions of Australia
- Speed Limits
Australia has variable speed limits on its urban and rural roads, the usual ones being 50 kilometres per hour in urban areas. Moreover, they also vary between states and regions.
It is advisable to pay close attention to signboards on the road that mention these limits and even when you do not see one for a long time, it is best to stay within the last seen speed limit to avoid penalties.
Unless super-necessary, avoid using your horn on Australian roads. The citizens use it as a last resort to warn others of impending issues.
- Cell phones
Operating a phone is not only risky for your safety but also for others on the road and this is why it is illegal to use mobile phones while driving here.
- Passenger Safety
Not just the driver, but all passengers are required to wear seatbelts in a moving car. For kids, appropriate boosters or other permitted equipment has to be used.
Australia is one of the largest countries in the world and several cities are separated by large distances. It is imperative to stay prepared for long-distance travel in the country. If you intend on driving between two far away cities, carry an appropriate number of essentials like food, water, and fuel.
Keep your phone charged and carry a spare battery pack/power bank for emergencies – the battery can dry up pretty quickly while using maps and location tracking features. It is also good to stay prepared in case your car ditches you along the way – some camping equipment like a tent, blanket, torch, etc can come in handy while staying the night.
To keep fresh and avoid heat-strokes in regions with a hot climate, take a break every couple of hours. Use this time to stretch, hydrate, or for a little nap.
While the country has well-built and maintained roads, the highly variable climatic conditions across the landmass can take their toll on driving conditions.
While all the urban and most rural parts have sealed roads, it is not the case with remote regions. You would find the occasional dirt road in many regions and these can further deteriorate under extreme climatic conditions like forest fires and floods – common occurrences in many parts of the country. If you plan on venturing into or crossing through these, a four-wheel drive (FWD) should be your preference.
Tolls and Permits
Tollways can be found around major cities like Sydney and Perth. Most of them accept electronic payments only, through a device installed inside the car. If your rental car does not have this transponder, you would have to pay through other means within a period of 24 hours.
Permits are required to cross through protected land belonging to the native Aboriginal population.
The right of way at marked crossings lies with pedestrians – avoid driving while people are waiting to cross. In the loading zones, large, commercial vehicles are allowed to pick and drop cargo for businesses. If you are in an everyday passenger car, you should avoid parking or stop in these zones.
Australia is the only home to several animal species and this is why the common public and government try every bit to protect their lives. If you find a Kangaroo or a Koala trying to cross the road, be mindful of their presence and avoid accidents.
Despite all the careful preparation and driving, things can go wrong sometimes. Whether you are implicated in a DUI offence, a speeding ticket, or any other traffic violation, Astor Legal can assist you in getting a reduction and even the complete removal of the penalty.