Australia is the land of wide open roads and rural driving is sometimes a necessity to get you from A to B. No matter how experienced you are, there is one common factor for all rural drivers, the roads and surroundings can be unpredictable at times and it pays to be vigilant whilst driving.
Crash data suggests that the majority of rural crashes occur during daylight hours, particularly between 2pm and 6pm. Overall in Australia, the fatality rate is slowly decreasing, but the number of fatal crashes in rural and remote areas has seen only a very small reduction in numbers.
Tips for staying safe on rural roads
- Plan your journey: If you will be taking long journeys on rural roads map out what towns will be coming up on your travels and ensure you take adequate rest stops to help break up the journey.
- Obey the road rules: Be aware of differing rules from state to state in Australia.
- Reduce speed to the driving conditions not the speed limit: Rural roads are vastly different to city and metropolitan roads and the conditions of the roads can change in an instant. Dirt and gravel roads are widespread in rural areas, road shoulders are often unsealed and many rural roads are not well maintained and have many unexpected potholes, ruts and corrugations.
- Be alert for livestock and wildlife: Particularly at dusk and dawn when they are most active. At times they are very unpredictable as to which way they will run and avoiding them becomes a driving hazard.
- Know how to navigate narrow roads: A lot of rural roads are effectively one lane roads, with little to no room to move over on the road safety to pass oncoming traffic. Blind corners can also pose problems, the key is showing patience and slowing down when needed.
- Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy, registered and in good mechanical working order: If you have vehicle difficulties (e.g. flat tyre, broken windscreen), drive to a safe, off-the-road location before taking action.
- If it's flooded forget it: Don’t risk your safety, don’t drive through flood waters.
- Be mindful of distance and isolation in remote areas: No one wants to run out of fuel between isolated townships. Don’t forget food and water provisions for long journeys.
- Keep your loved ones informed of your journey: Be sure to let them know where you are going, and roughly what time to expect you back, even if you have travelled the same roads a million times before.
- Be aware of different vehicles that use rural roads: Road trains, industrial traffic and agricultural machinery to name a few. They are all very different to your standard car and extra precautions should be taken when driving on the roads. Road trains can be up to 53.5m long, so you need to be able to get past them safely if overtaking. A lot of machinery or industrial traffic are much wider than the roads themselves so showing a bit of patience around these vehicles is a must.
- Telephone reception: Not all rural areas will have coverage so be prepared for when that happens. If you will be out on rural roads for long periods of time a satellite phone may be needed.
- Gates and grids: Both are mechanisms for controlling livestock, particularly cattle. But they can cause serious damage to vehicles if you are not aware of what they are or if they are not well maintained.
- Dust: Bulldust is a very fine, talcum powder-like dust which can cause major troubles to unsuspecting drivers. Dust can settle in pot holes and make them appear to be flat roads until you hit them at speed, dust can also cause low visibly from passing vehicles or vehicles that have overtaken you.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 8, 2019.