Outback driving is not riskier than driving on any crowded highway at home. Likewise, driving on unsealed tracks in the Australian Outback needs the driver's full attention.
Forget the traffic jams. Enjoy the freedom to drive on empty roads in the beautiful Australian Outback!
Conditions on dirt roads vary, depending on the weather, usage of the road, and how long ago the grader went through. Usually, the main Outback roads, although unsealed, are in fairly good condition.
To start with, driving in Australia is not hard, even if they drive on
the "wrong" side of the road. That's when you come from central Europe, or North America. Okay, there are still a few more
countries in the world who drive on the left, so the wrong or right
really depends on where you come from.
If you have an accident with people being seriously injured call
the police and an ambulance. The emergency call is 000 from fixed
phones, and 112 from mobile phones.
106 can only be used with a teletype writer, this is the number for
anyone who have a hearing or speech impairment.
You can also use the triple zero emergency app to call 000. This gives the emergency services your position using the GPS of your smart phone.
When you travel into very remote areas, consider taking a sat-phone or HF radio with you, just in case if you have trouble with your car, or health problems.
Even on main highways phone connection is not always given outside Outback towns. However, on main roads you won't have to wait long until another car arrives.
Many Outback roads are bitumen roads, marked as "sealed" road on a map. Actually, there are quite a few major highways that criss-cross the country, and can be used by any family car.
The Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to Darwin is the main connection from south to north in the centre of Australia. Yes. you reach Uluru and Alice Springs using that highway.
Eyre Highway takes you from Port Augusta to Perth across the famous Nullabor plain.
Another major route is the Barrier Highway which connects the central west in NSW with the vineyards of South Australia, and Adelaide.
Minor roads are often very narrow (one-lane road). When you see an oncoming car, slow down and move to the left so that your left driving wheels are on the gravel.
However, if the oncoming car is a truck, you better slow down and leave the road completely. Don't force the truck to leave the bitumen. It would only throw stones and dust on you anyway.
Don't forget, what you think is a truck could as well be a road train. These "monster" vehicles can be up to 50m long. Bear this always in mind when you try to overtake a truck/road train.
Another danger of Outback driving is fatigue, especially when you drive long distances on sealed roads. From my experience, falling asleep won't happen as easily on a dirt road, because the rough surface calls for your attention. Nevertheless, plan frequent stops; there is always something worth to take a photo of.
Stop, revive and survive!
Now in Australia's inland you can expect a wide variety of road surfaces. From good gravel roads to extremely rough, rocky or sand tracks, everything can happen. When you go into remote areas and onto the famous tracks, investigate what conditions are like before you leave home. Below is a list where you get that information from.
You've heard about corrugated roads? It seems Australia is famous for them.
Pictured below is one of the worse roads in a national park in New South Wales. Don't worry, it is not always that bad.
Find the speed that makes the ride on a bumpy track comfortable for you. On roads like the Oodnadatta & Birdsville Tracks this could be a speed of 60 to 80 km/h (40 - 50 mph) if the conditions are good.
When driving on unsealed Outback Roads...
- they help station owners to keep the animals in
the paddocks they should stay in. On main roads there are grids,
animals won't walk over them. There's hardly ever a problem with grids
on bitumen roads. However, be careful on unsealed roads, slow down.
Because of washouts it can be a bumpy ride over the grid.
Minor roads and station tracks just have a gate. You, or the co-driver, have to get off the car and open the gate, if it's closed. Don't forget to close it after you have passed. The golden rule is: Always leave a gate as you find it!
When you have driven on rough tracks all days, the gate stop is useful to have a look at the car to check if everything is still in place.
That reminds me on another fact you should realise while driving throughout
the Australian Outback. Almost always you traverse private property. Please stay on designated roads and tracks.
Desert Parks Bulletin South Australia (PDF) - Hotline: 1800 816 078
Outback Roads South Australia - Ph: 1300 361 033
Live Traffic New South Wales - RTA Ph: 132701 or ring the NRMA 131122, NSW western regions 80826660
RACQ Queensland - Ph: 131905 Live Traffic Queensland
Northern Territory Road Reports - Recorded information Ph: 1800 246 199
VIC Roads - Road closures & Traffic alerts
The Bureau of Meteorology has always the latest weather warnings on the homepage.
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