Outback road safety tips

For a safe and enjoyable journey through the Northern Goldfields region of Western Australia, travellers are encouraged to take note of the following Outback road safety tips.

Travelling around the Northern Goldfields can be exciting, enjoyable and an adventure to remember. The views, native animals and birds, and sheer pleasure of being in such wide open spaces combine to create an inspiring experience like no other.

However, travelling through the region is unlike metropolitan driving. Distances can be long, the roads can be quiet and animals such as kangaroos often create dangerous obstacles on the road. If careful consideration is given to the information below, most journeys can be undertaken in comfort, safety and without incident. Night travel is not recommended. Mobile phone coverage is limited; where available Telstra service only.


The Northern Goldfields has long stretches of road and wide-open spaces, which can lead to unintentional speeding and fatigue.

Driving for sustained periods of time can cause slow movements, decreased tolerance for other road users, poor lane tracking and loss of awareness.

It is recommended that drivers take frequent breaks and stop regularly for food and drinks.

Come well prepared

  • Pack four to five litres of water per person per day (in at least two containers).
  • Pack a detailed road map.
  • Ensure your vehicle is in good running order and that you have a collection of spare parts and tools.
  • Make sure your tyres are suitable for unsealed roads and that you have at least two spares.
  • Check road conditions with local Shire offices or Main Roads WA, especially after heavy rainfall.
  • Always notify someone of your travel plans and of any changes you make to your itinerary.
  • If your vehicle breaks down or becomes bogged, stay with it – a car is easier to spot than a person in the event of a search.

Road conditions

The condition of unsealed roads can change quickly and without warning. Dust can obscure other vehicles from view, so slowing down on dirt roads is the safest option.

If floodwater covers the road, then only attempt the crossing if you absolutely must, and only after you have first checked that it is safe to do so. If it is necessary to check water depth and speed, ensure you use a safety line.

Outback pedestrians

Nearly 50% of vehicle crashes on outback roads are caused by animal crossings. Be wary of the road and the area around it.

Kangaroos are prevalent, especially in early evenings, at night and in the early mornings. Emus are unpredictable and often have a mate following close behind. Cattle like to camp on roads at night and are often hard to see.

Wedge-tailed eagles are prevalent in the region and they like to scavenge from road kill. They are relatively slow moving birds and are often taken by surprise by fast moving vehicles.

Bulldust and washouts

Bulldust is fine, talc-like clay that covers the surfaces of many roads in the outback, making them look deceptively smooth, and hiding washouts and large holes.

When driving through bulldust patches reduce speed to avoid tyre and vehicle damage. Driving with headlights on is advisable in these conditions, as is using flags on the antenna of your vehicle (flags are especially useful when driving through sand dunes).

Water crossings

The rule for crossing water is to walk through the crossing first. Test the depth and strength of the current, and try to detect any underwater obstacles by using your feet or a stick. Once you have tested the waters, engage four wheel drive low and drive through in second or third gear, keeping your momentum up.

The neighbours

Unless you have permission, stay on gazetted roads. Leave gates as you find them, avoid lighting fires, always have dogs on a lead and remember that no dogs are allowed in National Parks. Be aware poison baits are put out for wild dogs through the region.

Be safety aware

Caution should be taken when bushwalking or hiking through the region’s spectacular outback areas. Stay on designated paths and heed warning signs. Don’t go on your own – always let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back. Always carry water, wear suitable clothing and select trails and walks that suit your level of fitness.


The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS) provides a high frequency network to control their aeronautical and medical traffic. Communications assistance will be given to anyone who is broken down, or involved in an accident and other emergencies. Before setting out on your journey register your radio call sign with a RFDS base before setting out.

Alice Springs (NT): (08) 8952 1033
Port Augusta (SA): (08) 8642 5555
Jandakot (WA): (08) 9414 1300
Main Roads WA: 138 138

More outback touring information

Transit Permits are required for Aboriginal communities and when travelling on some four wheel drive adventure touring routes. Travel Permits and can be obtained through Department of Aboriginal Affairs on their web site www.daa.wa.gov.au

For more information about off-road routes to be travelled, www.exploroz.com is well worth a visit.

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.

Northern Goldfields Travel Planner

northern goldfields map

Download the Northern Goldfields Travel Planner, or order a copy to be sent to you by mail, and start planning your holiday in Western Australia's Northern Goldfields. View more


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