Driving in rural and remote areas
Driving in rural and remote areas requires special driving skills and awareness of different road conditions. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and that it has been serviced recently. Always carry a spare tyre, tools and extra water. Our remote areas have long distances between towns and facilities so it’s important that you plan your trip before setting off. If you are planning to travel to remote areas that are not on major highways, you should inform your family/friends of your intended route and expected arrive time. You may also consider hiring emergency communications equipment like a satellite phone or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon device.
Road conditions can vary from a sealed road surface to gravel and unsealed roads. You should have a four-wheel drive if you are travelling on unsealed roads. You should also avoid speeding on unsealed roads to avoid dangerous hazards like holes, soft road edges and changing road surfaces. If you do drive off the side of a road, don’t overcorrect, but slow down and return to the road when the vehicle is travelling at a safe speed. Obey road closure signs.
Changing road conditions due to floods/bushfires
Australia is a land of extreme weather conditions where some parts of the country may be affected by floods and other parts may be experiencing other extreme weather conditions such as bushfires or cyclones. Main bitumen roads on the Downs are generally of reasonable quality although sometimes sections are a bit rougher than expected on major rural roads. You should always plan your trip in advance and check for local weather conditions in the area you are travelling to. You should not attempt to cross flooded roads as flood waters often have strong current which can sweep your vehicle away.
Watch out for wildlife & livestock
Watch out for wildlife on the road, such as kangaroos, emus, wombats and koalas. Livestock such as cattle may also graze on the side of an unfenced road. Be aware that there may be carcasses lying on the sides of the road and birds such as hawks or eagles may be feeding on them. Common scavenging birds (kites and ravens) can fly clear of an oncoming vehicle without being hit. Eagles, which are increasingly resorting to road-kill for food, act more possessively and are reluctant to give up their find to get away from a vehicle bearing down on them; they are likely to wait too long before taking off. Unfortunately, these heavy birds do not gain height quickly and the combination of late taking off and slow rate of climb too often proves fatal for them and dangerously messy for motor vehicles. Proceeding closer to these birds, you can beep your horn (consistently) to startle them to fly away. You should always be travelling at a safe speed, so if an animal crosses in front of you, you can further reduce your speed. Do not attempt to swerve your car violently or you can roll off the road.
Road Trains/Articulated Trucks
Road trains or articulated trucks that can be as long as the length of 10 cars, can take up to 2.5 KMs to overtake if you're travelling at 100 KMs per hour. Allow plenty of room before you try t overtake a road train as they often sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the wind rush when passing as it can pull you towards the road train.
Fuel is readily available in most towns; when travelling the Landsborough or Flinders highways. Vehicles using petrol or diesel fuel should not require special planning for daytime fuelling, however it is recommended to plan for evening fuelling. Preparation for travels along minor roads should include fuel planning too. If you require LPG some research may be needed from place to place, as not all service stations in the outback cater to this particular fuel.
If your vehicle breaks down
If your vehicle breaks down, do not leave your vehicle as it will provide you with shade and protection from weather conditions. Wait for help to come to you. You may also consider hiring emergency communications equipment like a satellite phone.
Speed limits are enforced
Speed limits are strictly enforced. The speed limit is the maximum speed permitted on that road and you must not drive above the speed limit at any time. Some roads do not have visible speed limit signs, but speed limits still apply. You should be especially careful in residential areas and in school zones.
Slip, slop, slap
The Australian sun is very strong and you should always wear a shirt, SPF30+ sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. You should also have plenty of water on hand to avoid dehydration.
Most shopping facilities have fresh bottled water available for sale, however most towns rely on bore water which may be quite sulphurous. The strong smelling/tasting water is safe to use but a cup of tea made with sulphur bore water may taste unusual.
Be prepared if you intend to spend time hiking or walking in our bush land. Make sure you are wearing sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear. You should plan your hike and always tell someone of your intended route and what time you expect to return. Don’t forget to also let them know when you return safely. You should never go bushwalking or hiking alone. Always read maps and signs carefully and stay on the walking tracks and behind safety barriers. Always carry plenty of water and food. Check the local weather forecast and be prepared for unexpected changes in weather.