There are a lot of road rules and regulations in Australia that are very strictly enforced, probably more than most other countries. The reason for this is that we are such a vast country, and, therefore, there are long distances that need to be covered. Despite most people living around the coastal fringes, you need to be aware of some of the peculiarities that are uniquely Australian.
***This article has been updated in 2017**
Rules Change often in Australia, so stay updated.
The Australian Road Rules (ARRs) contain the basic rules of the road for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, passengers and others. It pays to keep an eye on this website, for changes as each state and territory is slightly different. Eg. The Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) has point to point speed cameras, and if you want to know more about this, and how easily you can get caught speeding, read this.
How Big is Australia?
A common mistake made by travellers and tourists alike is to underestimate the sheer size of Australia.
- From Sydney to Melbourne is a 10-hour drive.
- From Sydney to Brisbane is a very solid 10-hour drive
- Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef is about 2750km, which means that you are looking at a few days of driving.
- Sydney to get to Uluru is 3000kms.
Learn to Drive with a Professional Driving School
While undoubtedly your parents will start you on the road – literally – to get your drivers licence, it pays to earn from a professional driving school, especially since the road rules change so quickly. Your parents are undoubtedly lovely, but you will see another side of them when they teach you to drive. Try the No Yelling Driving School in Melbourne, if you don’t want to get yelled at, and want to learn how to drive in Australia properly.
Stop, Revive, Survive
This is not saying that you should not drive the distances as there is such diverse scenery and landscapes to be enjoyed; it is merely saying that you need to be careful in allocating your time and not trying to fit everything in. It is worth taking note of the current campaigns to stop, revive and survive. There is a realisation that because of the distances that we travel that there is a need to take a break and re-group. Once you have the following sorted you will love driving around this extremely unique country, you know the one that is ‘down under’.
You need to be very aware of our many, many rules and regulations. Trust me, you don’t want to ignore them.
How to Drive in Australia
1. Drive on the left-hand side of the road. That means the driver is closest to the middle of the road.
2. You must have a licence or you will be in big trouble. You must be 18 years old to have a licence. You can drive in Australia with your foreign licence for three months if the licence is in English. If not, you will need to get an International Drivers Permit (IDP) from your home country to use in Australia. If are in Australia for more than 3 months you will have to get an Australian licence. Carry your licence with you at all times.
3. You must be 21 years old to hire a car, BUT if you are under 25, you will pay a lot more.
4. We have a demerit system in operation. Everyone starts off at zero points and if you infringe any rule or regulation you will gain points. Once you hit 13, that is it. No licence and a lot more unpleasant things are coming your way. This is NOT something you want to achieve. If you do the wrong thing, it will not take long to reach that bad number. On long weekends or holiday periods, there are double demerit cheap generic cialis canadian pharmacy points which mean that if you are caught speeding then instead of getting 2 merit points you will then get 4. This again is dependent upon your speed as you could lose the lot in one go, which means your licence is cancelled, you will go to court and you are in deep trouble. The Same thing if you are driving under the influence etc etc. Once you get to 13 points then you lose your licence, get fined and all the ramifications of this will hit you like a ton of bricks.
5. Drink Driving – BAD, BAD, BAD. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% throughout Australia, with zero limits for learners and drivers with provisional licences (“P” plates). This is not to be even considered. Get a taxi, walk but never ever drink and drive. Police often set up random alcohol and drug testing, which we call ‘booze buses’. People, regardless of whether you have been drinking or not will inevitably be pulled over at some stage. You will be asked to show your licence (which you must carry at all times) and either be asked to count to 5 into a machine or blow into it to assess how much alcohol and/or drugs you might have taken. Many clubs and pubs have a breathalyzer machine so that you can test your sobriety before you hop behind the wheel (It is a bit of fun actually)
6. You MUST ALWAYS wear your seatbelt or else you will be pulled over. This can cost you 5 points.
7. You cannot use your mobile phone (cell phone) while driving. Yes we see people doing it but if the police catch you then you will lose 3 points. See how fast your points can add up. Talk on the phone while not wearing a seat belt on a long weekend and you are done without even having had a drink.
8. Having your license suspended in one state or territory will transfer to all states and territories in Australia.
9. Children up to 7 years of age must be restrained with the right safety harnesses and capsules. You will need to check this if travelling with kids. If they are not properly harnessed, you as the driver are responsible and you will lose points.
10. DO NOT SPEED. There are fixed cameras and hidden one’s everywhere. We operate on kilometres per hour. There are signs everywhere and they can change quickly so stay alert. Be really aware of School zones where the speed limit is 40km per hour between 2 periods of a day and even DURING school holidays. Depending upon your speed will depend on how many demerit points you lose.
11. Road rage is not a good thing. It happens but it is best not to beep at anyone or give anyone the finger. Just suck it up and stay out of trouble.
12. Do not back chat the cops, and don’t call them cops (to their face).
13. Driving in the bush at dawn and dusk is fraught with problems, namely kangaroos and wombats and birds darting out at your car. They will win, you will not. Avoid, where possible, driving at these times or be super aware.
14. Driving in the Outback. Australia is a huge country, and the Outback is a series of bloody big red deserts. Be prepared with water and food and extra fuel, should you break down. Be really aware of the road trains, which are really long trucks that go very fast and can wipe you off the road. Watch for the signs that say last petrol station for thousands of km’s. Fuel up.
15. Ring 000 if you are in an accident or see one.
See, it is quite easy. There are so many rules and regulations for a reason. There are more than probably any other country. That is the way it is so it is worth being very prepared.
Read More on the Australian Government Site Roads and road transport