Driving through Western Australia’s Golden Outback may take you into some remote areas where forward planning is extremely important. Read the following road safety tips for some advice and useful information that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable journey.
Western Australia’s Golden Outback observes the same driving laws and regulations as the rest of Australia. Vehicles travel on the left-hand side of the road and it is compulsory for all passengers to wear seatbelts.
When approaching roundabouts you must give way to vehicles already on the roundabout. Always use the left-hand indicator prior to exiting.
U-Turns are not permitted at traffic lights, unless there is a displayed 'U-turn permitted' sign.
You are required to give way to public buses and be alert when approaching a railway crossing - country trains do not always run on schedule.
You are permitted to drive on a current out-of-state or overseas licence for a period of one year. If you hold an out-of-state or overseas driver's licence it must be carried with you when you are driving and produced on demand to a police officer if requested.
It is illegal to talk on your mobile phone while driving.
Speed limits vary across the State, but the maximum limit is 110 kilometres per hour. It is an offence to travel above the speed limit.
Major metropolitan roads are generally capped at 60 kilometres per hour, while suburban streets are almost exclusively limited to 50 kilometres per hour.
School zones are clearly marked and restricted to 40 kilometres per hour for one hour periods at the beginning and end of the school day.
Freeways and highways vary from 80 - 110 kilometres per hour.
The Western Australia Police Service employs radar and other speed monitoring devices, and fines are enforceable, even for visitors.
Unsealed roads can change condition quickly without warning. Dust can obscure other vehicles, so slowing down on dirt roads is the safest option. Slow down on corrugated and roads and always drive at the speed suited to prevailing conditions.
Western Australia experiences heavy rains and there are usually several cyclones each year that create flooding and sometimes destroy crossings. Some Western Australian roads are subject to flash flooding. Check the depth, force of the water and look for submerged objects before crossing. Do not cross if the water level is to deep or fast flowing.
Alcohol and drugs
Alcohol, drugs and driving are a lethal combination. Western Australia has severe penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol or other drug stimulants. Drivers must maintain a blood/alcohol level below 0.05 per cent in order to drive within the legal limit.
Check your vehicle
It’s essential that your vehicle is checked before you depart. A comprehensive first aid kit, extra water and food supplies, tool kit, at least two spare tyres and spare parts should be kept as standard - along with the knowledge of how to use them.
If you are towing a caravan, trailer or boat, make sure you know the legal load limit for your vehicle and that your load is well secured. Heavy or poorly secured loads can cause rollovers and accidents. The legal speed limit outside a built-up area for a vehicle towing a trailer or caravan is 100 kilometres per hour, unless otherwise signposted. Some outback areas are accessible only by high clearance four wheel drives, so towing caravans, trailers and boats is not recommended.
It is important to check road conditions before your departure. Regardless of your vehicle, should you come across a road that is formally advised as being closed, do not attempt to traverse it under any circumstances.
Road trains are a unique part of travelling in Western Australia’s Golden Outback. Road trains often have up to four trailers and on the open road can travel at speeds up to 100kph. Take care when overtaking road trains and only do so when you can clearly see the road ahead. Be aware that dust and stones can be kicked up on unsealed roads, obscuring vision and potentially damaging your vehicle.
To travel through Aboriginal land a permit is essential. The Outback Way between Laverton and Uluru is patrolled and fines will be issued if you have not obtained a permit. A permit will also be required if you wish to traverse some sections of the Canning Stock Route. And when travelling through Aboriginal lands, drivers are prohibited from diverting off the main road.
Permits can be obtained from the Department of Indigenous Affairs Office or online on www.dia.wa.gov.au. Allow two to three weeks for your application to be processed. See Permits for Aboriginal lands for more details.
National Parks may also require passes, for further information see National park passes or visit Department of Environment and Conservation.
Wandering stock and wildlife
Many cattle stations are unfenced and it is not uncommon to encounter wandering stock and wildlife. Serious accidents can occur due to collisions with kangaroos, cows and various other animals. Take particular care when travelling at dawn and dusk, as these are the most dangerous times. Slow down, keep a lookout, and if possible, avoid driving at night.
Fuel and food availability in remote locations
Food and fuel supplies in Western Australia's Golden Outback are generally available every 100-300 kilometres. However, when travelling in remote areas, such as the Outback Way, it is recommended that you plan ahead and stock up on food and fuel. Some remote service stations have restricted opening hours and limited bank/credit facilities.
It's also important to note that LPG Autogas is not available in all regional areas. It is advisable to contact the local shires or visitor centres when planning your journey, to ensure you know the location and availability of food and fuel supplies in Western Australia's Golden Outback.
Safe driving tips
- Inform a reliable contact of your intended destination and estimated arrival time, and be sure to let them know when you get there.
- Take a current detailed road map and keep track of your mileage. Some of the region’s towns are very remote, so if you find yourself in trouble, assistance could be many hours away. Be aware of your vehicle’s limits and take your time.
- It is always important to carry extra food, fuel, water, a first aid kit and vehicle spares if you are travelling on remote tracks.
- The outback can be very hot in summer, so if you are travelling at this time of the year make sure you are carrying plenty of drinking water.
- Get a good night's sleep before departing.
- Stay somewhere overnight if you are on a long journey.
- Share the driving if you can.
- Plan to travel for no longer than eight or ten hours a day.
- Take a twenty minute power nap when drowsy.
- Stop at a roadhouse for a coffee break and to stretch.
- Don't drive during hours when you are normally asleep.
For further information on road safety please visit the Office of Road Safety website.
Another helpful resource is the Department of Regional Development and Lands' Travelling in Outback Western Australia.