If you have recently moved to Australia, it is important to know that there are certain rules and regulations particularly related to driving which might be different than your home country. There isn’t any leniency on the expats coming to Australia for not knowing the rules and the general driving culture of Australia. Heavy fines are imposed on those that don’t follow the guidelines. Therefore, you must take care of certain points to help you out while driving in Australia.
Can you drive in Australia with an International Driving License?
YES, you can drive in Australia as long as you have a valid International Driving License. Most countries offer their citizens a facility to have an International Driving License so you can easily get one with certain documentation before coming to Australia. In case you don’t have an International Driving License, the Australian Road Research Board requires you to have your home country license in the English Language. The validity of this license is only for three months during which you should be active in seeking a valid driver’s license from Australia.
Driving Safety Rules in Australia
Countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia require all occupants of the car to wear seat belts. In countries like India or Bangladesh, this is not essential or strictly enforced towards the citizens. Even if there is a young child or baby, he should be restrained to a harness or capsule seat to make sure he stays safe in case of any mishaps. It is important to know that the liability of following this rule falls on the driver of the car. In case any occupant is not wearing the seat belt, the driver would be penalized along with the passengers.
In addition to that, there is a limitation on the level of blood alcohol throughout Australia. No driver is allowed to have more than 0.05% Alcohol in their blood while this rule is even strict for learners and drivers that do not have permanent licenses (provisional license holders). For those who think they can get away with it, chances are, that you won’t be able to do it.
The reason is that the police in Australia are patrolling everywhere and are legally allowed to randomly test the drivers at any time. Charges against this criminal offense could include a fine and suspension of the driver’s license.
More safety strategies used in Australian driving culture include the use of speed cameras. In specific school zones, the usual speed allowed is only 25km/h which is usually only during the school timings. It is our recommendation to avoid having any high-speed travel because even if the police can’t catch you, the cameras will surely do their job.
Rental Vehicle Policies in Australia
If you are planning for a short stay in Australia, you might just be comfortable with having a rented vehicle rather than buying your own. However, this isn’t something very easy. Rental vehicle companies are having very strict policies for their customers. Before you get a rented vehicle, it is our suggestion to assess the car completely. Make a video from each aspect including minor dents and scratches so that the rental company cannot claim any unfair accidental damage on you.
Some companies in Australia require a security bond before they actually give you a car on rent and that is something you should be avoiding. For example, the rental company might ask you for a bond of over $7000 before you rent out the car. The bond is paid back to the customer once they return the car undamaged but it does put a big sum of money under consideration and many who are traveling for a few days might not be having this amount with them.
Moreover, do consider multiple companies rather than simply going for the first one you find out. It is important to evaluate all companies so that you can choose the one which has reduced restrictions and more security for you. Many firms require the drivers to not take the car beyond a predefined distance while some may also require you to perform a short road rules test before the car is handed over to you. In a nutshell, avoid taking a car from a company that is having many complications.
The Driving Culture of Australia
Above we mentioned some of the most important rules, but there are some particular things about the driving culture in Australia that are not always there in the rule book. Before we move on, keep in mind that Australians usually have right-hand vehicles so adjusting in such a car might be difficult for you in case you are coming from the USA or any European State.
The Animal Signs
Normally when people see animal signs in an area, they simply tend to ignore them and feel them as of no use. However, it is important to realize that Australia is a country with many animals that might suddenly come upon main roads. This could become a cause of accidents as well. There might be “Koala Crossing or Kangaroo Crossing” signs all over and it is always advised to be more proactive when driving near these areas. An animal could randomly come up at any time causing a disturbance in your driving which could potentially be dangerous.
These animals are especially out there at times of dawn and dusk so you should be extra careful driving during these hours. Be sure to not honk at them loudly as this could scare the creatures and might leave them scattered around. In case you do come across a Kangaroo or Koala crossing, try waiting or moving slowly.
The right lane isn’t usually used by drivers in Australia unless they want to overtake. Therefore, don’t just stay in the right lane unless you are going to overtake. Staying in this lane for long could be problematic for the other drivers who might want to overtake the road. This will also ensure that you have a safe driving experience in Australia. Some drivers purposely drive fast in the right lane so you are at risk if you drive at an average speed.
Self Service Stations
In most Asian and Middle Eastern countries, the fuel stations have staff that can fuel up your car. In other states such as the US, there is self-service for fueling up the car while the payment is also made through the fuel machine. However, the fuel stations in Australia do not provide full staff support nor do they have complete self-service.
In Australia, you need to fill the car up with fuel and then go inside the service station to pay the amount. In addition to that, one important unwritten rule in Australia is to always have your car’s tank “near to” full in case you are not staying at the city centers. This is important because due to the low population in Australia, there are many landmasses where there are no fuel stations for long distances. Of course, from a safety point of view, staying stranded at an isolated spot is not what anyone would want. Therefore, keep the tank neat to full always.
The reason why we don’t recommend having the tanks full is that there is a very hot climate in many parts of Australia and keeping the fuel tank full could increase the chances of any hazardous accident due to the rise in molecules not having any space to expand.
The Wave Culture
Among all the unwritten rules, one of the most important ones is to wave to fellow drivers. This is also known as the courtesy wave which shows consideration towards other drivers on the road. In many countries, the concept of saying Thanks exists but in Australia, just wave when you take any favor on the road, be it an unexpected one or an intentional one.
For example, if you are merging in a different lane and the other driver makes way, you should thank him by waving. Sometimes, some roads are too tight and only one car can pass at a time. Wave the fellow driver if you see him stopping on the side to let you pass through. In other cases where you have made a mistake such as accidentally cutting off someone wrongly, you should be giving a kind and apologizing gesture by waving to the driver. Also, try doing it with a person who has the same car as yours! That’s how Australians drive.
Keep Essential Equipment
Most people don’t carry a water bottle in their countries when traveling in their car but in Australia, during the summer months, it gets so hot that water becomes an essential item whenever traveling. Simply keep one bottle refrigerated at all times and take it with you every time you hit the road. Other equipment includes a tow chain, a first aid kit, and insecticides. Some tiny creatures could pop up at any time on your windscreen or even inside the car if you have kept the door open unattended.
The driving culture in Australia isn’t a very complicated one rather it is a straightforward one where the rules are clearly mentioned by the state. All the different rules are made to enhance the level of safety as well as an improved driving experience for all the citizens. Make sure that you follow both, the written rules as well as the unwritten ones. Be kind to fellow drivers!