Outback Survival: Safe Motoring

Date published

20 Jul 2018

It may have less traffic and more parking space than the cities, but that doesn't make driving in the Australian outback easy.

If you’re in a remote area and need help or medical assistance, call 000. In areas with poor mobile coverage, dial 112.

It may have less traffic and more parking space than the cities, but that doesn’t make driving in the Australian outback easy. 

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There are four times as many road-related injuries in remote areas than in towns and cities, and despite less than 3% of the population living in remote regions, more than half of all Australian road fatalities occur there. 

Outback driving hazards

When driving in remote Australia, be prepared for hazards. Even experienced drivers can find themselves in new situations they've never experienced in towns and cities. Stay alert and safe out there!

  • Wildlife 

Kangaroos, wallabies, birds and reptiles are often attracted to roads, especially at night. Take care when driving and learn the correct techniques for how and when to brake, swerve, or continue straight.

    • Fatigue 

    Long distances cause fatigue and loss of concentration. When on a long trip, take regular breaks (at least every 2 hours), stay fed and hydrated, and don’t push yourself to go further. Being tired might not cause you to crash, but it could cause you to react too slowly to an unexpected hazard. 

    • Sunrise and sunset 

    Many roads in remote Australia point East-West. Driving during these times can be especially dangerous due to the low sun blinding drivers to oncoming traffic or wildlife. 

    • Flat tyres or breakdowns 

    Getting a flat tyre or breaking down can be a life-threatening situation in remote Australia. Make sure you have spare tyres and parts with you, and never leave your vehicle to seek help – you are much more likely to be spotted if you stay with your vehicle. 

    • Speeding 

    Long, straight roads can tempt drivers into higher speeds than they’re accustomed to. Even if the road is straight and empty, excessive speed can cause your vehicle to handle differently, and it puts more mechanical strain on it. Breaking down, crashing or becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere is a dangerous situation, especially if you don’t have survival supplies. 

    • Wild weather 

    Australia’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. Heavy storms, dust clouds and even the odd tornado are known to appear with little warning. In these situations, pull over and wait for the weather to pass. And never, ever drive into floodwater. 

    • Trucks and caravans 

    People unfamiliar with the outback – even city-dwelling Australians – may not have seen or driven near a road-train before. Take extreme care when approaching or overtaking these extra-long vehicles. 

    • Remoteness from medical care 

    If you are involved in an accident or become stranded, the distance from advanced medical care will have an effect on your chances of survival, especially if you need immediate treatment. Drive to the conditions and make sure you have a satellite phone or HF radio to call 000 – mobile phones and CB radios won’t work in remote areas. 

    Motoring Accident Statistics

    How common are road accidents? 

    There are an average of 250 fatal crashes in Queensland each year, half of which occur along the coast north from Brisbane to the tropical north. 

    In 2016-17, the Royal Flying Doctor Service assisted 310 road accident victims in Queensland alone – almost one per day.

    Preparing for your trip 

    Before setting out on a road trip, make sure you’re prepared – it could just save your life. 

    • Get up-to-date maps and plan your route. 
    • Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy and capable of going long distances. 
    • Check your spare tyre is inflated and that you have a jack and tools. 
    • Only pack what you need – don’t overload your vehicle. 
    • Bring enough food and water to last a few days in case you break down. 
    • Tell people where you’re going and for how long. 
    • Take a first aid kit and instructional guide. 
    • Carry or wear gear to protect against sun and insects. 

    Remember – if you break down, get lost or run out of fuel, never leave your vehicle. It will likely be your only available source of shelter and shade, and it will be a lot easier for rescuers to spot. 

    Feel free to print this guide. Safe travels!