Last updated on: November 7, 2018 at 11:49 am
There’s nothing like hitting the open road, whether it’s taking a road trip down the coast or up the river. However, country driving also brings with it risks and laws drivers aren’t usually exposed to while navigating city streets. Words: Jeremy Rochow
You’re cruising along listening to tunes on the radio and thinking of hitting the waves or casting a line, when you come up behind a B-double truck travelling at a slower speed.
It might not feel like it, but sitting behind a truck for a few minutes won’t increase your travel time that much, so be patient and wait until it’s safe to overtake or you reach an overtaking lane.
If you decide to overtake on a single-lane road, there are a few safety measures to consider before doing so.
You must only overtake when the white line nearest to the driver is broken, ensuring the road ahead is clear for an adequate distance, and that you’ve got enough time to return to the same lane without endangering the truck being overtaken and any potential oncoming traffic.
Unsafe overtaking could cost you:
If your car’s travelling at 110km/h, it’ll take about 2km to safely overtake a 26m B-double travelling at 100km/h. Don’t floor it either – it’s illegal to break the speed limit even when overtaking.
Overtaking a vehicle when it’s unsafe could cost you $305, plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 2 demerit points.
Check the road to make sure no vehicles are overtaking you before signalling your own intention to pass.
Also remember to leave a safe gap between your vehicle and the B-double, and only return to the lane when you’re a safe distance ahead of the truck.
High beams from an oncoming vehicle can dazzle a driver and make it difficult for them to see the lanes and hazards on the road.
The law states that if you’re within 200m of another vehicle – whether you’re approaching from the front or behind – you should switch off your high beams.
It’s also good practice to do this sooner to avoid dazzling other drivers.
As well as blinding other drivers and causing a potentially dangerous situation, you could also face a $243 fine, a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 1 demerit point.
Daytime running lights (DRL) are common on newer vehicles, but if your car doesn’t have this feature, it’s a good idea to turn your standard headlights on while driving on country roads to make your car more visible.
It’s also good practice to use standard headlights during low cloud and visibility, as DRLs only illuminate the front of your vehicle and not the rear.
Snooze and you could lose your life. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common reasons people are killed on country roads.
The two main causes of fatigue are lack of sleep and driving when you should be asleep, but what are the signs you’re feeling tired and need a break?
If you’re yawning, having trouble keeping your eyes open, or can’t remember the last few kilometres of your journey, it’s time to pull over and have a rest.
Ensure you park somewhere safely off the road at a rest stop or in a town.
You can take a number of precautions to reduce fatigue, including sharing the driving with another person, making sure you get enough sleep before your road trip, and not starting a long drive after a day at work.
Lastly, plan regular breaks to stretch your legs every couple of hours.
You may encounter level crossings without boom gates or lights while on your road trip, so it’s good to know what to do as you approach them.
If you come across a level crossing with a stop sign, stop and give way to any train approaching or entering the crossing, and wait until the coast is clear before driving across the tracks.
If you fail to stop at a level crossing stop sign you face a $464 fine plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 3 demerit points.
At a level crossing with a give-way sign you should slow down, look for trains and be prepared to stop for a train that may be approaching.
Driving on dirt roads
Travelling through regional areas, you’re likely to encounter unsealed roads. If you do, you’ll need to adjust your driving, as your car will handle differently along dirt roads.
Reduce your speed to suit the conditions and increase the distance between you and any vehicles ahead.
You might also notice tyre tracks from other traffic – in most cases you’ll want to follow these, as the compacted dirt makes for a smoother ride.
Lastly, steer and brake gently to avoid skidding and take particular care around corners.
If you encounter an animal on the highway, you should reduce your speed – but not brake heavily or swerve – to try and avoid a collision.
Drivers should try to avoid driving at dusk and dawn in rural areas if possible, as this is when animals are more active; however, they can be out at other times as well, so always be on the lookout.
If you do hit and injure a native animal, remain at a safe distance, away from the road, and call the Fauna Rescue Hotline on 8289 0896.
Animals that have been killed should be removed from the road safely to reduce potential dangers to other motorists.