Road safety and regulations
A guide to Australian road safety, rules and regulations to make your driving holiday in Australia safer and more enjoyable.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need an international driver’s licence to drive in Australia?
Yes. If you wish to drive in Australia, you must hold a valid international driving permit accompanied by the driver's licence issued in the country you live in.
What side of the road do Australians drive on?
Australians drive on the left side of two-way roads. Ask passengers to remind you of this every time you set off and when you are turning at an intersection. You should always use pedestrian crossings where possible and remember to look right, then left and then right again when you are walking across the street.
Can I hire a car in Australia?
Car rental can be extremely cost effective when planning to travel around Australia by road. When renting a car in Australia, there are requirements which are common across the car rental industry, including holding a valid driver’s licence, a credit card as a form of security, and a passport for ID. You will find most of the major international car rental companies in Australia including Avis, Hertz, Thrifty, Budget, Europcar and Jucy.
Is it illegal not to wear a seatbelt?
Yes. All drivers and passengers in the car must also wear seatbelts. Children under age seven must be in a child restraint appropriate for the child’s size and weight.
Are there speed limits in Australia?
Speed limits are strictly enforced in Australia. The speed limit is the maximum speed permitted on that road and you must not drive above the speed limit at any time. Some roads do not have visible speed limit signs, but speed limits still apply. You should be especially careful in residential areas and in school zones.
What are the rules on drinking alcohol and driving?
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous and Australia has very serious penalties if you are caught doing so. In Australia, you are not permitted to drive a car if your blood alcohol level is 0.05 per cent or higher. If you hold a probationary or provisional driver’s licence, your blood alcohol level must be zero when driving. Driving after taking drugs that affect your ability to drive is illegal and penalties are severe.
Can I use my mobile phone while driving?
No, you are not permitted to use a handheld mobile phone when driving. This includes making or receiving calls, texting, playing games or browsing the web.
Are there rest areas on Australia’s roads?
It is common to travel long distances in Australia, so you should plan your journey to include several rest breaks and to ensure you have enough petrol for your journey. Rest areas are located every 80-100 kilometres (49-62 miles) on main highways and roads for people to pull over and rest when needed.
Is it safe to drive in rural and remote areas?
Driving in rural and remote areas requires special driving skills and awareness of different road conditions. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition and that it has been recently serviced. Always carry a spare tyre, tools and extra water. If you are travelling to remote areas off major highways, make sure you have plenty of fuel as well as food and water. There are often long distances between towns and facilities so it’s important that you plan your trip before setting off. If you are planning to travel to remote areas that are not on major highways, inform family or friends of your intended route and expected arrival time (ETA). You may also consider hiring emergency communications equipment like a satellite phone or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) device.
What are the road conditions in Australia?
Road conditions can vary from a sealed road surface to gravel and unsealed roads. If you are travelling on unsealed roads a four-wheel drive (4WD) is recommended. Be aware of hazards including holes, soft road edges and changing road surfaces. Keep to the speed limit and obey road closure signs.
Australia is a land of extreme weather conditions where some parts of the country may be affected by floods, bushfires or cyclones. You should always plan your trip in advance and check for local weather conditions in the area you are travelling to. You should not attempt to cross flooded roads as flood waters often have strong currents, which can sweep your vehicle away. You can contact the local State Emergency Service (SES) or phone 000 if you are in an emergency situation.
Is there wildlife on the roads?
Watch out for wildlife on the road, such as kangaroos, emus, wombats and koalas. Livestock such as cattle may also graze on the side of an unfenced road. You should always be travelling at a safe speed so if an animal does cross in front of you, you can further reduce your speed. Do not attempt to swerve your car violently or you can roll off the road.
When can I overtake another vehicle?
Where the centre line marking on the road is a single broken line, vehicles may cross the line to overtake when it is safe to do so. If the centre marking has two lines you must not overtake if the line closest to your vehicle is unbroken. Where arrows are painted on the road, you must only drive in the direction they indicate.
Can I overtake road trains?
Road trains or articulated trucks (which can be as long as the length of 10 cars) can take up to 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) to overtake if you’re travelling at 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour. Allow plenty of room before you try to overtake a road train as they often sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the wind-rush when passing as it can pull you towards the road train.
What should I do if my vehicle breaks down?
If your vehicle breaks down, do not leave your vehicle, as it will provide you with shade and protection from weather conditions. If you have hired a vehicle, follow company instructions for roadside assistance.
What is the emergency services number in Australia?
The number for emergency services in Australia is 000. They can connect you to police, ambulance and the fire brigade. You should only contact 000 in an emergency.
Do I need an e-tag for tolls?
Many of the motorways around major cities in Australia are toll roads, meaning you have to pay a toll to use them. Some are also fully electronic, so you will need to pay with an electronic tag or pass. You can buy a visitor’s pass in advance or pay up to three days after you use the road. E-tags can often be used on motorways throughout Australia, but it is best to check with the local state roads and traffic authority to avoid fines.
Do I need to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle and bicycle?
If you are riding a motorcycle, moped, motor scooter or bicycle, you are required to wear a helmet. If you are riding on a road, you must obey all road signs and traffic signals, including speed limits. You should always pay careful attention to road conditions and always allow plenty of room. Use your indicator if you are changing lanes or overtaking. Ride with headlights on and wear protective clothing.