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The Roadtripper's Guide to Driving Australia Part 2: Tips for Driving Safely

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 10 September 2009 | Views [12840] | Comments [3]

Pete Burke, the owner and founder of Traveller's Auto Barn, shares his extensive knowledge and experience about driving in Australia and making the most of your roadtrip.

In part 2 of the road trip tip series, we will discuss road safety and what to avoid doing on the road. Kangaroos are a road hazard unique to Australia, and thus present a new challenge for foreign drivers, especially at night. I will also outline a few other things not to do, if you want to keep your vehicle upright, that is. So, road warriors, read on before you drive off.

Driving at night

When you live in outback areas, it is inevitable that at times you will need to drive at night. As a tourist (with all of your hard earned cash tied up in your car), if you find yourself driving at night, especially in an area where you see more dead kangaroos by the roadside than living - you’ve got to ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky today?” Well, do ya Punk?

If you hit a kangaroo at night, it is not called an accident, it is called LOSING. You rolled the dice, and you lost. How do you avoid hitting a kangaroo? It’s simple, really. DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT (this includes driving at dawn and dusk).

Note: You are also more prone to hitting a kangaroo on roads where the bush or scrub comes very close to the roadway and on overcast, dark, cloudy days.

Hitting a Kangaroo

Some boofheads, ahem, I mean drivers, believe that if you drive extra fast you will avoid the kangaroo, as by the time it hops, you will have passed. Others believe that if you tailgate a semi-trailer, its enormity will protect you from hitting a roo. I believe in Santa.

The whole country is not riddled with roving populations of roos, but the danger of hitting one exists on almost all rural, country and outback roads. Some places are more dangerous than others, but it really just depends upon the roo population in that area at the time. A good rule of thumb is that if you see a lot of dead kangaroos by the roadside, you probably should not be driving at night in that area.

Bull bars/roo bars will limit the damage and may save your life, but they do not provide some kind of magical force field. The damage will still be significant, and may be the end of the line for your car. Because you do not NEED to drive at night, you do not NEED a bull bar/roo bar. (However, they do look very cool on your car and if your car has a bull bar/roo bar at selling time, it will probably be the bull bar that makes the difference.)

How to Roll your Car (or Things to Avoid Doing on the Road)

  • Swerving to avoid hitting an animal
  • Swerving to avoid wedge tail eagles picking over a road kill carcass
  • Driving too fast (which may only be 40 km/h) on dirt roads
  • Many roads are only wide enough for one car. When a road train is coming the other way, you will be forced off the tarmac. If you do this at speed, you may lose control when one wheel hits the soft edges. Often when passing cars on outback roads, each car will put one wheel off the tarmac (again speed, soft verges and inexperience will result in you rolling your car).
  • Speeding
  • Looking down to adjust the radio, get a drink, SMS…

Coming soon…

That’s all for now, intrepid Aussie roadtrippers. In my next installment, stay tuned my tips and tricks regarding driving dangers, road rules, and vehicle maintenance. See ya on the road!

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Tags: australia, campervan, kangaroos, night, road, road safety, road trip, travel tips, van-tastic adventures

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