Looking to escape the daily grind of city life and explore WA’s country roads?
This side of Australia is renowned for its vast landscapes, remote wilderness and rural beauty. But driving on an open country road can be very different to the stop-start driving of city traffic.
Preparation is important.
Driving through WA’s country may take you into some remote areas where forward planning is essential for a safe and enjoyable journey.
To tackle challenges unique to country road driving, here’s what you need to know before hitting the roads.
1. Stay Sharp
Fatigue is one of the biggest killers among country road drivers.
In fact, research reveals one in three drivers fall asleep behind the wheel. That’s some shocking statistics. Early warning signs, such as wandering thoughts, excessive yawning or blinking, poor concentration, restlessness and sore/tired eyes shouldn’t be ignored.
When drivers start to notice, they may wind down the window or turn up the radio to stay alert. But being at a higher risk of having a crash when fatigued is something many still overlook.
To avoid driver fatigue, start your trip well rested and limit driving time to less than eight hours a day. Planning your trip, including safe stop points to rest, is also important.
2. Different Roads, Different Techniques
Driving dirt and gravel roads is a different driving experience to city driving.
Unsealed roads can change condition rapidly without warning. Dust and dirt can kick up behind other cars and tarnish your visibility. To drive different roads, you must practice different driving techniques including:
- Avoid driving during or after rain as dust turns to mud, creating big problems for the road and your vehicle. Many unsealed roads will be closed after rain or bad weather so check road closures before leaving.
- Drive slower to allow more time to react to road changes and help you stay in better control.
- Leave a bigger gap between cars.
- Take corners slowly to reduce the risk of sliding.
- If you feel your car slide, don’t hit the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator instead and gently steer the car without over-correcting.
3. Stick to Country Road Speed Limits
Do you know the common country road signs in WA?
Pay attention to local speed limits and signage when driving. The speed limit is 110 km/per hour if you’re driving on country roads, even if there’s minimal traffic.
4. Avoid Driving in Poor Visibility
WA’s outback experiences severe weather. Bush fires, cyclones and flooding happen with minimal warning.
Be aware of lack of sight, including fog on cold mornings, smoke from local burn offs and bush fires or dust and dirt obscuring visibility on unsealed roads.
Many WA country roads are also subjected to flash flooding. Always check depth and force of water. If water is too deep or fast flowing, avoid crossing.
5. Look out for Wildlife and Road Trains
You don’t need to venture far from the city to need to think about wildlife and road trains.
Kangaroos, in particular, can be a real problem if you accidently hit them. But their behaviour is usually predictable around rural roads. Knowing typical behaviours can help to avoid damage to your vehicle and wildlife injuries.
- Most active at dawn and dust, so be particularly careful during these times.
- Slow down driving if you see a kangaroo as they may try to keep pace with your car and jump onto the road in front of you.
- If they do jump out don’t swerve. Instead, brake quickly and hard in a straight line as swerving at high speeds can cause you to lose control and crash.
- Use your horn to warn wildlife.
Road trains in rural areas often have multiple trailers and travel at speeds up to 100kph. If you need to overtake a road train, allow extra time as many country roads are only one lane.
6. Complete Car Safety Checks Before You Leave
A well-maintained vehicle gives you the best starting point for your trip.
Check and top up all fluids. Make sure you have a spare tyre (or two) and check each tyre’s air pressure. Bring plenty of supplies, such as a first air kit, extra water, tow rope, jumper leads and tool kit for emergencies. If may be long stops between fuel as well. Bring extra or plan fuel stops so you don’t get stuck.
If you’re planning a country drive or an extended road trip, why not brush up on your driving skills? Book a defensive driving course or contact us for more information about how we can help make your next trip safer.