Tourists and visitors who plan to drive in Australia must know Australian road rules and characteristics of road traffic. Although Australia has eight states and territories, the road rules are mainly the same:
- If you are a visitor and have a valid driving permit from your domestic country in English, you can drive in Australia. If your National Driver Permit is not in English, you must have an International Translation of Driving Permit. The presence of the International Driver License can prevent fines, bail charges, and time delays since the International Translation of Driving Permit is the proof of driving eligibility. However, remember that the International Driver License doesn’t by itself give the right to drive in Australia. All the time, if you ask about the proof of your driving eligibility, you must show your National Driver Permit and International Driver License. Foreigners may drive with their International driver licenses for no longer than three months.
- Before driving, you should make sure that your insurance is valid and provides coverage for areas where you are going to drive.
- If you are from country with the left-hand side of the road driving, it is easy for you to adjust to drive in Australia. You should only follow Australian road traffic laws. If you are from country where motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road, you will need some time to get used to drive on the left-hand side. All the time, you have to remember to go into the left-hand side of the road when you turn right or left. It is not easy if you are accustomed to use the right-hand side. Possibly, you should start to drive in an automatic car as the manual ones since the latter have the gears shifted with a left hand.
- You should be prepared to a long drive because it is a long distance between most Australian cities and you will spend hours on the road.
- In Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, trams are on the street. Trams always have right of way.
- In most states, the local urban speed limits are in range from 50km/h to 80 km/h (30-45 mph); on major highways, a limit is 100km/h (55mph). In the Northern Territory, a speed limit is 110km/h on highways and all rural roads if it isn’t other signs. Each state operates contemporary speed detection equipment; manned radar setups are well hidden. There are many unmarked cars on highways. Using radar detectors is strictly forbidden.
- A driver and all passengers must wear seat belts. The driver as well as passenger is liable for wearing a seat belt by the passenger. Special child seats are required too.
- In Australia, road rules have very strict laws about drinking and driving. In most states, the legal alcohol limit is 0.05 %, but it is recommended to refrain from alcohol at the time of driving. The Police have the right to stop any driver for a breathalyzer test. This action is called a Random Breath Test (RBT).
- In Australia, the minimum driving age are varied in different states and territories. In Victoria, the minimum driving age is 18 years; in Northern Territory, it is 16 years and 6 moths. In other states and territories, minimum driving age is 17 years.
- Driving in the outback has some risks. If you are going to drive outback, you should discuss your route with the rental car company in advance because some rental companies limit the operation their vehicles in the outback. It is important somebody locally knows of your travel plans. If your car breaks down in a remote area, do not walk and stay with your vehicle. It is easier to find people who stay with their cars. Don't go in the north during the rainy season. Night driving is unsafe over kangaroos, emus, cattle, and even buffalo and camels.
- If you are going to travel across the designated Aboriginal Land, you should obtain permission from the owners in advance. The permit process is different from state to state; it can take to six weeks. Contact the national parks' controlling body in each state before your travel.
- Do not pick up strangers.
- Driving at night demands from drivers of special attention as on the road can be animals. Late at night, fuel is often unavailable.
- Road trains (trailer trucks up to 50 meters long) are common sight in the outback. It is necessary 1.5 km (0.8 m) for overtaking a road train. If you pass the trailer track in the opposite direction, plenty space since the displaced air causes buffering. Allow more room for trucks to turn.
- Pedestrians have a right to share the road. Drivers are legally required to give way to a pedestrian at crossings and when turning at intersections. You should always be prepared to stop for pedestrians.
- Bicycle riders have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.
- Between the school bus stop zone and end school bus stop zone signs, do not drive faster than 40 km/h. This speed limit only applies when a bus, with flashing rear orange lights, is driving between the signs. The orange flashing wigwag lights begin to flash when the bus stops and the doors are opened. You must not drive past the bus in the same direction at more than 40 km/h while the lights are flashing.
- Some crossroads don’t have traffic lights or signs. If you are going to turn at an intersection, remember that you must give way to: oncoming vehicles are going straight ahead, oncoming vehicles are turning left, any vehicle is on your right side, and pedestrians are at or near the intersection.
- If you hear a siren or see the flashing lights, pull over to the left until the emergency vehicle passes. You will be liable for a fine if you do not give way to emergency vehicles.
- If you are pursued by a police vehicle you must immediately pull over and stop.
- Some intersections with traffic lights contain bicycle storage areas. When traffic lights or arrows are red, drivers must not enter to the bicycle storage area.
- Left turn on red light is only permitted at intersections with the sign “Left turn on red permitted after stopping”
- A “stop” sign with three black dots is only seen at traffic lights. If the lights are not working or are flashing yellow and you are approaching this sign, you must stop and give way to traffic as though you are at an intersection with stop signs.
- Children under 6 months must be secured in a rear facing restraint. Children from 6 months to 4 years must be secured either in a restraint, either rear or forward facing. Children from 4 to 7 years of age must be placed in a forward facing restraint or in an approved booster seat and use an adult seat belt.
Driving is never risk free, but everybody should aspire to drive with low risk. Good observation, road positioning skills, and speed management are necessary for a low risk driving.
Driving Overseas - Short Information
Australia Road Traffic Signs