Getting on Top of Driving Down Under

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Driving in Australia is rather different to driving anywhere else in the world. The most obvious difference is that Australians drive on the left side of the road and the stirring wheel is on the right side of the car. Our car blinkers can be found on the right side of the wheel and windscreen wipers to your left! Take time to familiarise yourself with these and the location of your hazard lights before you take off.

Once out on the road there are driving laws that have been put in place to protect everyone as our roads are very open and wide.

  • When driving, everyone in the car must be restrained with an individual seat belt. Small children may require a booster or child seat to be fitted to the car. These are readily available through your rental car company.
  • Talking on the phone is also illegal. To take a phone call, the phone must be fitted into a hands free adaptor, which you can purchase at electronic stores and some service stations.
  • When driving in Australia, you must be under a blood alcohol level of 0.05 if you are on an unrestricted license. An individual’s blood alcohol level can vary greatly from one another based on factors such as height, diet and age. To be 100% you are not over this limit it is best to avoid drinking when you plan to drive.
  • Speed limits are also very strict in Australia, and vary from state to state. These are indicated frequently by signs on the side of the road. Residential streets are normally 50-60/kph but the speed may vary depending on the time of day (eg. school hours). On highways, speeds are generally between 90-110/kph.
  • When crossing between states, you may be required to eat all your fruit, or dispose of it. This may seem trivial, but it is important in controlling pests, and holding on to fruit past these points is breaking the law. Signs on the side of the roads indicate fruit disposal points.

Country/Highway Driving

Australia is a big country! In fact, the whole of Europe can fit into Australia twice. Travelling long distances can cause fatigue. If you begin to feel tired, it is important you pull over for a powernap. Most major highways have multiple truck stops, but there are plenty of other places you can pull over if required.

Packing a few essentials such as spare bottles or water is a good idea. If you get stuck in-between towns, it could be a few hours before assistance reaches you. Alpha has provided some guidelines for the distance between major cities to help you plan for your road trip!

One should take care when driving at sunrise, sunset and night time as wildlife is more likely to wander on the road during this time. There are signs warning you of high-risk areas, however kangaroos have a knack for appearing when you least expect them. Be mindful and stay alert!

Early morning frost and fog are not uncommon in Victoria and Tasmania. Frost can cause the road to become slippery; this is known as black ice, and can be dangerous. If you do encounter icy roads, steer the vehicle, but do not accelerate or break as this may cause the tires to spin making the car hard to control. Areas prone to the ice are marked with signs and are highly monitored. When heavy fog occurs, drive slowly and use you high beam headlights. If your vision is too heavily obstructed, pull over but leave your lights on; it is important that other vehicles can still see you!

Fires and floods do occur in Australia but ajority of the time, these are localized to small regions and are easy to avoid. Flooding can occur over bridges and crossing and if you come across high water levels, do not attempt to drive through them. This is unsafe and increases your risk of an accident. Notifications of major floods and fires will be spread most rapidly via the radio so it is important to listen to the local stations. Here you will also receive information on how to respond and if you follow instructions, you should not encounter any danger.

City Driving

Melbourne’s most dreaded road rule for locals and tourists alike is a hook turn. These only occur in Melbourne city and aid in turning right across two lanes of traffic in the presence of trams. When a sign for a hook turn appears and traffic lights are green you are required to move the center of the intersection in the leftist most lane. From here, when there is no oncoming traffic or trams, or when the lights are amber, you can make the turn. This creates confusion, as at majority of intersections in Australia you are required to turn right, from the right hand lane as per normal.

Hook Turn

Melbourne’s dreaded hook turn is not as hard as it looks

Most major cities have some toll roads. These are clearly marked upon approach with blue signs. There is no need to stop and pay on the road as it is automatically linked to the cars registration number.  You can pay over the phone, on the internet or at a post office within 72 hours of using the road. To find out more about these please see Brisbane tolls or Melbourne tolls.

Although driving in Australia is very different to driving anywhere else in the world, it doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Being prepared and aware of major laws and road conditions will ensure that you experience a stress free transition into Australian driving! Our staff at Alpha Car Hire are always happy to help with any questions you may have.