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Driving in Australia

485 bytes added, 04:44, 12 March 2013
'''Driving in [[Australia]]''' is an experience to be savoured. It is a way to experience the wide-open spaces and magnificent natural scenery, and there are so many destinations that can only be experienced by car. Before setting off you should may make sure you are well prepared for the Australian driving experience.
Australians drive on the left side of the road and the majority of vehicles have the steering wheel on their right side. Around 70% of Australian cars are automatic transmission. When hiring a car manual transmission (stick-shift) is generally only offered as an option for the cheapest small cars. The gear stick in a manual transmission is operated by the left hand. The arrangement of the pedals is standard worldwide. In most cars, the indicator (turn-signal) stalk will be on the right side of the steering wheel and the windscreen wiper stalk on the left side of the steering wheel.
Driving conditions vary. Most Australians live on or near the eastern and south-east coasts. Roads within and between the cities and towns in these areas are sealed (paved) and well maintained, as are the main highways that join the state and territory capital cities. There are usually plenty of well marked rest areas on major highways, though these are usually very basic and do not always have toilet facilities.  In more remote areas (known as the "[[Outback]]") motorists may travel for hundreds of kilometres between towns or road houses without opportunities to refuel, get water, refreshments, or use toilets. In these areas, even on major highways, you will have to plan your trip, including fuel and food stops. Off the major inter-city highways, road conditions can be difficult in remote areas. Many roads are unsealed (gravel or sandy) and often poorly maintained. Some may only be suitable for four-wheel drives and some (including major sealed highways) may not be passable at all in certain seasons or weather conditions.  Motorists need to be self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies when travelling off major highways in remote areas and be aware that outside of major towns, mobile (cell) phone coverage will almost certainly be non-existent. A satellite phone may be a worthwhile and possibly life-saving investment in the most remote, lightly trafficked areas. Permits may also be required to travel through Aboriginal communities in certain remote locations, though these permits can usually be obtained for free.
==Buying a car==
[[Image:Mobile speed camera.JPG|thumb|250px|A mobile speed camera in Victoria. The cars used are completely unmarked, and there is no sign the vehicle is a speed camera car coming from behind.]]
Speed cameras are used in all states and territories of Australia, with some states using hidden cameras, others preferring highly visible ones. The strictest place for speed limit enforcement is [[Victoria (state)|Victoria]], with mobile speed cameras hidden in unmarked carsvehicles such as Holden Captivas, as well as hidden Mitsubishi Outlanders and Ford Territory SUV's. These mobile cameras operate in all speed zones (suburban side streets to freeways/highways)and in some instances in both directions. Fixed overhead speed cameras are on some highways/freeways usually under overhead bridges or sign gantrys. There are now point to point fixed speed cameras behind highway signageon the Hume Freeway north of Melbourne. The There is no official tolerance in Victoria is just three kilometres per hour in excess of when detected by a speed camera exceeding the speed limit. Upon written application speed fines may be withdrawn and a warning issued if the speeding is a minor nature (generally no more than 10% above the limit) and the applicant has a good driving record for the previous 2 years. Police speed traps, and mobile patrols also regularly pull over cars for exceeding the speed limit. In other states, exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h or so will usually result in you being sent a fine notice of around $200 (and demerit points if driving on an Australian licence). Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h can result in a court appearance and possible criminal conviction. Red light and combined red light/speed cameras also operate at many urban intersections and a similar fine will result.
Fine notices are invariably sent to overseas addresses. Rental car companies often charge an administration fee if fines are incurred, and will pass your name on to the debt collection authorities. Your fine won't generally be pursued outside Australia, but you should consider the consequences if you wish to drive in Australia in the future.
===Traffic signals===
It is illegal to turn left on a red traffic signalunless there is a sign explicitly permitting it. In some states, it is illegal to do a U-turn at a traffic signal, unless there is a sign explicitly permitting. In Victoria a U-turn is permitted at any intersection with signals, unless signage specifically prohibits this.
===Overtaking (passing)===
Parking in major cities can be difficult and expensive, especially in the CBD and around tourist areas, such as beaches. Even smaller towns may have parking hassles on popular market days and for events.
'''Commercial parking''' lots charge lot charges are common in capital cities centres, and operate on an hourly basis on weekdays, and often charging a flat fee on weekends or evenings. These can be very expensive in the CBD area.
Cities often have council operated '''on-street parking''' that involves a fee payable. There is either a meter that corresponds to the spot in which you have parked, or a ticket machine to buy a ticket from. These spots will have a sign indicating the maximum amount of time you can park there (paying the appropriate fee), and at what times the fee operates. Feeding meters (staying longer than the posted time by returning to the meter or ticket machine, and inserting more money or buying another ticket) is illegal and will result in the same fine as not paying the fee.
Some less major rural roads and outback roads are unsealed gravel roads. These are harder to drive on at high speeds and you will have to contend with the odd stone being thrown up. Windscreen damage is not unusual. Typically, rental car companies '''do not allow''' their cars to be taken off sealed roads, even if the unsealed road is an official minor road. Many gravel roads in the south are in good condition and experienced drivers tend to drive on them as fast as they would on the sealed roads. When on gravel it is essential to slow down well before a corner or you risk skidding as you turn. Loose or drifting gravel also poses a hazard as your tyres may lose traction as the gravel ''rolls'' or shifts under the tyres. If you feel you are losing control on gravel, slow down and try to avoid braking or turning sharply. Roads in the northern tropics are often sandy, rocky or corrugated.
When you are driving on Australia's open roads you may see dead animals on the side of the road. The fact is, quickly swerving or braking heavily could cause a much more serious accident. Sundown Dusk and sunrise are times to be on the alert through the Australian bush, as well as regions where you will encounter water sources like rivers and reservoirs, or the plains surrounding mountain ranges.
If you come across multiple tyre marks on the road, this could suggest that animals regularly use this part of the road as a crossing, so just be a little more aware, and also, using the high beam head lights at night, will make it harder for an animal to find an appropriate escape route, so practice flicking them off for animals as well as for on coming traffic.
* Telstra Mobile coverage maps []
Some mountain and tableland areas of NSW New South Wales, Victoria and Victoria Southern Queensland are noted for having very frosty nights that may cause diesel to solidify in vehicles causing the engine to stop or run abnormally. Usually vehicles will run normally without intervention, when the morning warms, at about 9AM.
=== Fuel ===
Maximum speeds vary between states and are normally signposted.
The default open road speed limit varies between states in [[Australia]]. Those default limits should always be observed in rural and regional areas where there is no signposted speed limit shown and the area has no street lights and is away from town ships or built up areas. It is generally best to assume that the default limit is 100km/h unless you are sure a higher limit is applicable. 100 km/h is normally the maximum speed limit on Australian roads outside a built-up area where no other speed limit is sign-posted.
When travelling on un-paved or gravel roads the posted limit may not be appropriate to the prevailing conditions. You should never presume the road is safe to travel at the posted speed limit, the actual safe speeds of travel on unsealed roads may vary tremendously within a short space of both time and distance due to current weather and/or road conditions. For this reason many gravel and dirt roads in Australia do not have speed limit signs posted lest they should mislead road users into believing that the posted speed is either achievable or safe. As an example of this, in Tasmania they do not normally install advisory speed signs on unsealed roads where travel speeds greater than 35 km/h can be achieved.
[[Image:FuelSign_WA.JPG|thumb|350px|Be wary of your fuel]]
[[Australia]] is a very big country, and while driving is a fun and interesting way to get around, you have to remember that it is a long long way to get from point A to point B. Taking the capital cities as an example, it is easy to drive from [[Melbourne]] to [[Adelaide]] in a day (6 8 hr), or [[Canberra]] to [[Sydney]] (3 hr) but driving from [[Melbourne]] to [[Sydney]] is a good 10 hrs solid driving. If you want to drive to [[Perth (Western Australia)|Perth]] from [[Melbourne]], you must use the [[Eyre Highway]] and cross the [[Nullarbor|Nullarbor Plain]], which means driving for approximately 3,500 km, including 2,000 km on a virtually dead straight, totally flat road with only a few roadhouses, sometimes hundreds of kilometres apart. You will have to spend at least one night on the road, so book in advance. The general advice is to '''have a rest''' every two hours 'Stop, Revive, Survive'. The trick is to get as far and fast as possible in those 2 hrs, so your stamina and energy is sustained. Don't be governed by a number written on a signpost, let common sense prevail. You are the driver, and your time of arrival at your destination is in your own hands. If you are comfortable driving at 80km/h on a windy road while the speed limit has a ridiculous 100km/h signage, continue on at 80km/h and enjoy the scenery. It has been studied that 100km/h for prolonged distances on straight sections of road can cause sudden fatigue, and in extreme cases hallucinations, so stop revive survive. Always expect the unexpected and drive to the conditions. You should also be '''wary of your fuel''' supplies and always allow a generous reserve for unexpected contingencies. A good rule of thumb is to carry sufficient fuel to be able to turn around and return to the place you were last able to secure adequate provisions. Distances between fuel supplies can be extreme, even on main roads and conditions can change without warning. Check that you have a map indicating fuel outlets, petrol stations (gas stations) and local fuel depots providing either petrol or diesel fuel. Outback communities do not always have fuel supplies or they may be limited. LPG (liquid petroleum gas) may be un-available in some areas and in remote areas it is very unlikely to be found.
There is little traffic on back roads, but what there is will consist of a fair proportion of road trains (semi-trailers towing up to three trailers). They will not necessarily be able to quickly reduce their speed, as their effective stopping distance is often far too great. Do not expect a road train to be able to take rapid evasive action to avoid your vehicle, even if you have a technical ''right of way'' never pull out in front of a heavy vehicle, slow down rapidly or stop without ensuring you have left a clear path for the larger and much heavier vehicle to proceed unhindered.
===Staying awake===
Once you are outside the metropolitan areas, traffic tends to thin out and driving becomes relatively boring. The long straight stretches, the slowly changing scenery, and the fine weather on many through routes can be a recipe for drowsiness. Make sure you stop every couple of hours and, if possible, change drivers. On some routes local service clubs provide coffee and there are bill boards with road safety advice. These are all there for a reason (except, Speed Kills which is only true in Metropolitan Areas and Townships). People die on those routes from drivers falling asleep from following the unrealistically low speed limits over long distances.
When you arrive in Australia allow for "jet lag". Do not leave your car heater or air-conditioner switched to "recycle" as this can make you drowsy and watch for other signs of fatigue (blurred vision, yawning). On summer evenings, you can usually leave the windows open, for the fresh air and smell of the bush.
* [[Waterfall Way]]
[[Category:Driving by country|Australia]]
[[Category:Transportation in Australia]]

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