Campervan Driving and Safety
There are some basic safety considerations to keep in mind when driving a campervan in Australia:
The driver and all passengers are required to wear seatbelts. There are heavy fines for not complying with this rule.
Children under the age of 7 must be in a child restraint appropriate for their size and weight.
You are not allowed to drive if your blood alcohol level is more than 0.05% or under the influence of drugs.
Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is not permitted.
Make sure you know the height of the campervan and beware of driving into car parks and under bridges.
Always drive with your headlights on, also in daylight. This will make it easier for other vehicles (and animals) to see you.
Avoid driving at night when wildlife is at its most active.
Don’t leave valuables unattended or on display in the vehicle.
Keep essentials such as a torch and the road assistance number easily accessible.
Always inform someone about your itinerary and when you expect to reach your destination.
An estimated 20-30% of all fatal accidents on Australian roads are due to fatigue.
For your safety, drive only when well-rested. It is recommended that you drive for up to two hours at a time, taking regular stops for at least 15 minutes. Try to limit the maximum distance covered to 300 km (186 miles) per day.
If you are used to driving on the right side of the road, it is even more important to concentrate at all times. Many intercity roads have no median barriers, and you can easily drift off to the wrong side when you are tired.
If you’re arriving in Australia from a long-haul flight, stay at least one night in a hotel before picking up your van the next day. Extreme tiredness due to jet lag can make driving an unfamiliar vehicle unsafe.
Keep an eye out for Driver Reviver Sites, places specially designated to stop for a break where you can have some coffee and snacks. The sites operate during school holidays and public holidays, but their rest areas are open continuously. Plan ahead and decide which rest areas to stop at during your journey.
Many outback animals are nocturnal and become active in the evenings when it gets cooler. Kangaroos and wallabies are known for sitting in the grass at the edge of the road and suddenly jumping out in front of vehicles.
It is advisable to drive only between dawn and dusk to avoid collisions with kangaroos, wombats, emu, and deer.
If an animal crosses the road in front of you, reduce the speed and don’t swerve violently or you may roll the car. Make sure to keep the campervan on the same line, slow down, and stop if possible.
If you injure an animal, try to give it assistance and call a wildlife rescue group such as WIRES, Native Animal Rescue, and Wildcare Australia for help.
While driving in Australia, chances are you will spot giant triple-trailer trucks known as road trains.These are the world's longest trucks and can be over 50 m (164 feet) long—that's as long as 4 buses combined.
These huge vehicles rarely slow down, and it’s a good idea to keep your distance when travelling behind them. Slow down and pull to the left when a road train is approaching to give it the centre of the road.
The Northern Territory Government website provides detailed information on how to drive safely along with road trains.
Having a current paper or online map of the area while driving in Australia is a must.
Maps.me is a free app that can be used offline. All you have to do is download the maps of the states and areas where you’re headed and use them when needed.
GPS systems are a great option when you are venturing off the beaten track. Garmin and Hema sell good GPS systems with detailed maps of Australia including free updates.
If You Need Help
When travelling in the Australian outback, you need to be self-sufficient and prepared for emergency situations.
The safest thing to do in case of an emergency is to stay in your campervan. Leaving to look for help could mean that you spend hours walking around under the scorching sun and soaring temperatures before you come across help.
Knowing that more than two-thirds of Australia has no mobile coverage, it’s wise to consider renting a satellite phone and a radio set with an emergency button if you are planning any extended trips in remote areas. SatPhone Shop has a good range of satellite phones for both rental and purchase, and a radio set can be rented from BTW communications.