Australia – Driving

Australian traffic rules to remember:

If you’re driving slowly – getting used to the traffic, y’know – the lane for you is the leftmost lane if there is more than one lane in the direction you’re going.

If you’re traveling on a highway or freeway, Australian traffic rules say you should stay on the left lane (or one of the left lanes if there are more than two lanes going in the one direction) unless you’re overtaking. There would be signs to remind you of this.

If you’re entering and crossing an intersection, drivers customarily defer to the motorist on the right unless he or she is stopped by a STOP or YIELD sign. At a T intersection, the motorist driving straight through has the right of way.

Don’t beep your horn – unless you’re in a situation where you need to warn another driver, for instance, when he’s about to hit you.

The speed limit in a built-up residential area has for a long time been 60 kilometers per hour (35mph), but this has been reduced in many places to 50 kilometers per hour as in the Brisbane suburbs and a number of Sydney areas. Other cities may have adopted the lower limit as well. Be watchful of posted speed limits and do check with the locals. On country roads and highways the usual speed limit has been 100km/hr (62mph) or 110km/hr (68mph), particularly on freeways, unless signs indicate another speed limit. Already, the speed limit on certain stretches of the Newcastle Highway and on Sydney’s M4 freeway has been reduced.

Some road signs to take note of:

NO STANDING. Well, sure, you can’t be standing while driving a car. What it means is you can’t stop in the area indicated except to let a passenger get in or off a vehicle, and you certainly can’t park there.

NO STOPPING. Except in the event of medical emergencies, don’t stop in the area indicated.

NO PARKING. Just what it means. You can unload and unload passengers but shouldn’t leave your vehicle parked there.

BUS ZONE. Well, leave that to the buses. Taxi zone. Ditto for taxis.

LOADING AND UNLOADING ZONE. If you’re driving a truck, ute, van or wagon, you’re allowed to park here if you’re delivering or picking up some sort of cargo. If you’re driving a passenger car, you may have to explain what you’re loading or unloading.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Harbor Tunnel, and some of the highways and roads are toll ways, so have change ready to go through the tollgates quickly. A growing number of cars are fitted with transponders which allow these vehicles to drive through specially marked gates without stopping. An encoded magnetic card has also been available for some toll ways. On some toll ways, only transponders called e-Tags (and temporary e-Way passes) can be used.

Driving in Australia:

If you’re a visitor and hold a valid driver’s license (in English) from your own country, fine, you’re allowed to drive throughout all of Australia. (But an international driver’s license, if you have one, does not by itself give you the right to drive in Australia.)

If your driver’s licence is not in English, a translation may be necessary and you may also need to have an international driver’s license.

If you come from a country where motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road, there’s not much more to know, and you should easily adjust to driving in Australia by following local driving customs and laws.

If you come from the US, or from another country where people drive on the right-hand side of the road, there’ll be a bit to get used to, the main thing being that you drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia; and that if you turn left or right, you must remember to go, as you complete your turn, into the left-hand side of the road you are turning into, instead of to the right as you’re used to.

Parking

When driving in Australia, it is important to park properly to avoid getting a ticket.

You can park off-street where no NO STANDING, NO PARKING, or other restrictions apply.

You can park at car parks or parking stations, usually at an hourly rate.

You can park where there are parking meters so long as you feed them with the right money (have $2 and $1 coins handy) and don’t overstay.

Roundabouts:

Traffic in a roundabout flows in a clockwise direction.

In a two-lane roundabout, you keep to the left lane if you’re turning left or going straight ahead.

You keep to the right lane if you’re turning right. You can also use the right lane in a two-lane roundabout if you’re going straight ahead.

You use your left-turn signal for a left turn, the right-turn signal for a right turn. If you’re turning right and are on the right lane, switch on your left-turn signal when exiting. It has become law in New South Wales that motorists must signal left, in every instance, whenever exiting from a roundabout.

If you plan to drive in Melbourne, watch out for the “hook turn” signs – and be prepared to turn right from the leftmost lane.

Weird? Some drivers think so, and some go out of their way to avoid Melbourne streets with marked hook turns.

If you’re new to hook turns, yes, it can be both confusing and exasperating, and you’re also likely to miss your turn if you’re caught in the wrong lane.

Confused?… Doing the hook:

Once you need to turn right and you see the hook turn sign, move as quickly as you can to the leftmost lane.

On the green light, move forward on this lane to a point where you can turn right into the correct lane on the road you wish to enter.

At this point, you’re blocking traffic from the left. But that’s all right because they’re stopped on the red light.

When this red light turns green, turn right quickly into the street you want to go. The stopped traffic that was earlier on your left then follows you on the green light.