Driving through outback Western Australia may take you into some remote areas, where forward planning is extremely important. Read the following road safety tips for some advice and useful information that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable journey.
- Western Australia’s outback observes the same driving laws and regulations as the rest of Australia. Vehicles travel on the left-hand side of the road and it is compulsory for all passengers to wear seatbelts.
- When approaching roundabouts, you must give way to vehicles already on the roundabout. Always use the left-hand indicator prior to exiting.
- U-Turns are not permitted at traffic lights, unless there is a displayed 'U-turn permitted' sign.
- You are required to give way to public buses and be alert when approaching a railway crossing, country trains do not always run on schedule.
- You are permitted to drive on a current out-of-state or overseas licence for a period of one year. If you hold an out-of-state or overseas driver's licence, it must be carried with you when you are driving and produced on demand to a police officer if requested.
- It is illegal to talk on your mobile phone while driving.
- Speed limits vary across the State, but the maximum limit is 110kms per hour. It is an offence to travel above the speed limit.
- Major metropolitan roads are generally capped at 60kms per hour, while suburban streets are almost exclusively limited to 50kms per hour.
- School zones are clearly marked and restricted to 40kms per hour for one hour periods at the beginning and end of the school day.
- Freeways and highways vary from 80kms to 110kms per hour.
- The Western Australia Police Service employs radar and other speed monitoring devices and fines are enforceable, even for visitors.
Alcohol and Drugs
Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a lethal combination and Western Australia has severe penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence of these substances. Drivers must maintain a blood alcohol level below 0.05 per cent in order to drive within the legal limit.
Check Your Vehicle
It is essential that your vehicle is checked before you depart. A comprehensive first aid kit, extra water and food supplies, tool kit, at least two spare tyres and spare parts should be kept as standard, along with the knowledge of how to use them.
If you are towing a caravan, trailer or boat, make sure you know the legal load limit for your vehicle and that your load is well secured. Heavy or poorly secured loads can cause rollovers and accidents. The legal speed limit outside a built-up area for a vehicle towing a trailer or caravan, is 100kms per hour, unless otherwise signposted. Some outback areas are accessible only by high clearance four wheel drives, so towing caravans, trailers and boats is not recommended.
It is important to check road conditions before your departure. Regardless of your vehicle, should you come across a road that is formally advised as being closed, do not attempt to traverse it under any circumstances. For the most up to date infomation, contact Main Roads WA on 138 138, or visit www.mainroads.wa.gov.au
Road trains are a unique part of travelling in outback Western Australia. Road trains often have up to four trailers and on the open road can travel at speeds up to 100kms per hour. You should always leave approximately 200m between vehicles when travelling in a convoy to allow for road train drivers to pass. Only overtake a road train if the road ahead is clear and visible for a long distance ahead (more than 1km) and once you have made the decision to pass, commit to the decision and do it as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible. Be aware that dust and stones can be kicked up on unsealed roads, obscuring vision and potentially damaging your vehicle.
To travel through Aboriginal land, a permit is essential. These areas patrolled and fines will be issued if you have not obtained a permit. When travelling through Aboriginal lands, drivers are prohibited from diverting off the main road. Permits can be obtained immediately from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 1300 651 077, or visit www.daa.wa.gov.au
Visitor Fees apply at major National Parks in Western Australia. Three types of passes are available, Day Park Pass, which are available from the Ranger of the Park or self registration stations at the entry to the park, Holiday Park Pass, which covers a 4 week period of park visitations, or Annual All Park Pass, which is vaild for 12 months. Holiday Passes and Annual Passes are available from the Kalgoorlie Boulder Visitor Centre in person, or phone (08) 9021 1966.
Travelling with Pets
Please note that dogs and cats cannot be taken into any Western Australian National Park or Nature Reserve. Baiting for wild dogs is also still undertaken in many areas surrounding stations and farms in Western Australia and across the Nullarbor, so it is not recommended to let your animals 'run wild'. Not all caravan parks accept pets either so be sure to plan ahead to not be disappointed.
Wandering Stock and Wildlife
Many cattle and sheep stations are unfenced and it is not uncommon to encounter wandering stock and wildlife. Serious accidents can occur due to collisions with kangaroos, cows and various other animals. Take particular care when travelling at dawn and dusk, as these are the most dangerous times. Slow down, keep a lookout, and if possible, avoid driving at night.
Fuel and Food Availability in Remote Locations
Food and fuel supplies in outback Western Australia are generally available every 100kms to 300 kms. However, when travelling in remote areas, such as the Outback Way, it is recommended that you plan ahead and stock up on food and fuel. Some remote service stations have restricted opening hours and limited EFTPOS facilities.
It is also important to note that LPG Autogas is not available in all regional areas. It is advisable to contact the local shires or Visitor Centres when planning your journey, to ensure you know the location and availability of food and fuel supplies in outback Western Australia.
Safe Driving Tips
- Let someone know your destination and schedule.
- Carry extra water and food.
- Carry a signal device, such as a flare or mirror.
- Make sure you know how to use a 4WD if you are taking one.
- Plan your route and take maps.
- If your plans change, let someone know.
- If possible, carry some form of communication equipment.
- If you break down or get stuck, always stay with your vehicle, try to park so you can be seen and conserve your food and water.
- Get a good night's sleep before departing.
- Stay somewhere overnight if you are on a long journey.
- Share the driving if you can.
- Plan to travel for no longer than eight to ten hours a day.
- Take a twenty minute power nap when drowsy.
- Stop at a roadhouse for a coffee break and to stretch.
- Don't drive during hours when you are normally asleep.