It’s essential to carefully plan your trip before hitting the road. Make sure you inform a reliable contact of your intended destination and estimated arrival time, and be sure to let them know when you get there. And if you change your route or schedule, be sure to inform them of your plans.
Take a current detailed road map and keep track of your mileage. Some of the region’s towns are very remote, so if you find yourself in trouble, assistance could be many hours away. Be aware of your vehicle’s limits – if you’re going by 4WD make sure you know how to drive it and take your time.
Read the following road safety tips for some advice and useful information that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable journey through Australia’s North West.
Check Your Vehicle
It’s essential that your vehicle is checked before you depart. Not only is it dangerous to break down in the outback, it can also be very expensive! Also bear in mind that many areas are accessible only by high clearance four wheel drives and towing of caravans, trailers and boats is not recommended.
Stock Up and Get Well Equipped
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’re going bush, make sure you carry a signal device, such as a flare or mirror and, if possible, some type of remote communication equipment.
Avoid Driver Fatigue
- 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 or 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.
See Main Roads Western Australia for a list of rest areas.
If You Break Down in the Outback
Always stay with your vehicle, conserve your food and water and park so you can be seen.
Australia’s North West observes the same driving laws and regulations as the rest of Australia. Vehicles travel on the left-hand side of the road and wearing of seatbelts is compulsory for all passengers.
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 always 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 110 kilometres per hour. It is an offence to travel above the speed limit.
Major metropolitan arterial roads are generally capped at 60 kilometres per hour while suburban streets are almost exclusively limited to 50 kilometres per hour.
School zones are clearly marked and restricted to 40 kilometres per hour for two, one hour periods at the beginning and end of the school day.
Freeways and highways vary from 80 kilometres to 110 kilometres per hour.
The Western Australia Police Service employs radar and other speed monitoring devices, and fines are enforceable, even for visitors.
Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol, drugs and driving are a lethal combination. Western Australia has severe penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol or other drug stimulants. Drivers must maintain a blood/alcohol level below 0.05 per cent in order to drive within the legal limit.
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 100 kilometres per hour, unless otherwise signposted. Main Roads provide a useful guide on towing.
Sealed roads are easily accessible, except in case of heavy summer rains when they could be closed for hours or even days due to flooding. Unsealed roads are more unpredictable and can be open for travel one day and completely flooded the next or even closed for the duration of summer (November to March).
Get an update on local road and weather conditions at Main Roads Western Australia or contact the local Shire.
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. Not only do you put your own safety at risk, but you also put at risk those who come to assist you.
Road trains are a unique part of travelling in Australia’s North West. The sheer size of these massive vehicles can be overwhelming, some are more than 50 metres in length. Take care when overtaking road trains and only do so when you can clearly see the road ahead. Be aware that dust and stones can be kicked up on unsealed roads, obscuring vision and potentially damaging your vehicle. For further information on sharing the road with trucks go to Main Roads Western Australia website or watch this 30-second video.
Wandering Stock and Wildlife
Many cattle 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.