7 reasons to die in Australia: Unusual road hazards and safety tips

You arrive in Australia after a long flight, jet lagged and slightly irritated only to find that the rental car agency gave you a faulty car. The steering wheel is missing! How odd. Once your initial surprise evaporates, you are finding the lost object on the passenger  side. That’s when the penny drops, Australia isn’t called “down under” for nothing. You have to get accustomed to quite a few strange things around here, especially when it comes to road hazards.

Drive on the left side of the road

Now you realize that the odd steering wheel arrangement is actually here to remind you to drive on the left side of the road.

Safety tip: Avoid rush hour traffic and busy tourist routes until you get your bearings. Never drive when you are distracted or tired. Hire a chauffeur when you visit the wine growing areas.

Wildlife

Slow down, after all you are on holidays. Kangaroo road kill is a common sight, especially in the outback. Kangaroo meat (the farmed kind) is available in most supermarkets. It’s actually quite tasty (kind of gamy), low fat and loaded with iron (don’t overcook it or it will get tough). The average Aussie wouldn’t be seen dead eating “Roo” . Reminds them to much of road kill.

Safety tip: Avoid driving around dusk and dawn. Kangaroos are stupid animals. Instead of running away from you, they usually hop around back and forth, in a totally unpredictable way. Kangaroos quite often travel in groups, so if you’ve just barely missed one, the danger is far from being over.

Road Trains

You will never forget your first encounter with a road train. You see a dust cloud appear on the horizon, the earth starts trembling and when the big monster finally rumbles past you, you get sucked into the abyss (or so it seems). I am talking from experience here: The suction was so big that the rubber and metal trimming around our vehicle’s windshield got sucked right out of the frame and disappeared off the face of the earth. A rather costly and complicated replacement, I must add. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does, as the experience magnifies when there is a strong headwind.

Due to its huge size and remoteness, Australia has the largest and heaviest road-legal vehicles in the world, with some configurations topping out at close to 200 tonnes. Triple (three trailer) and AB-Quad road trains have a max. combined length of 53.5 m (176 ft). The Australian national heavy vehicle speed limit is 100 km/h (62 mph), except in NSW, Queensland and South Australia, where the speed limit for any road train is 90 km/h (56 mph). Triple road trains mainly operate in the outback and are allowed in western New South Wales, western Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The last three states also allow AB-Quads (3.5 trailers). Darwin is the only capital city in the world where triples and quads are allowed to within 1 km (0.62 mi) of the central business district.

Safety tip: If you see a road train approach, make sure that you are on the left side of the road (remember paragraph 1)! Immediately slow down and if possible, pull over to the side of the road (watch out for soft shoulders). Road trains never slow down (jackknifing danger), so even if you’ve just survived a kangaroo encounter, don’t push your luck here! If cycling, say a quick prayer,hop off and run for your life.

Some awsome road train pictures

Remoteness

If a sign tells you that the next shop is in 1’000 kilometres, then you better believe it, Mate!

Safety tip: Know your route and make sure that there are gas stations along the way. For overland trips it’s safer to bring a jerry can of fuel, plenty of extra water and some snacks. Check that your vehicle is in good nick (especially the tires and radiator). Better safe than sorry, the only thing you might encounter out there is road kill, road trains that won’t stop and plenty of flies. Before opening your mouth to take a bite of your sandwich ensure that your head net is securely in place to avoid suffocating on unintended fly meat.

Long distances, heat and monotonousness

If I told you that probably the most dangerous road in the whole of Australia is a straight one, you wouldn’t believe me.  However, we are talking of the Red Continent’s longest straight stretch of road (90 miles, 146,6 km). It’s not only dead straight, it’s also as monotonous as hell. All you see is sand, brush and road kill and to make matters worse, it’s blazing hot. The combination of long distances, heat and monotonous country can be fatal.

Safety tip: Have a break and a stretch before you enter the straight road and make sure that you are not in standby or sleep mode.  This is also a good occasion to relieve the pressure on your bladder behind a bush, remember, people can see you for 90 miles straight!

Water

I’m not kidding when I tell you that we were stuck for over a week because our vehicle didn’t have a snorkel. Australia is generally an extremely dry place, so there is no need for expensive culverts and high-tech drainage. Most roads hug the contour of the land so if it rains, the roads get flooded, sometimes for weeks or months. That’s when a 4 WD fitted with a snorkel comes in handy. If you don’t have local knowledge you shouldn’t even attempt it with a snorkel. Tourists have been trapped on the roofs of their rental SUVs with crocodiles circling them, not a nice thought.

Safety tip: Make sure that you are up-to-date with the latest road conditions and that if equipped, your snorkel does not have any leaks. After heavy rain falls check with the local Crocodile Dundee if it’s safe for you to drive (never ask a tourist). As a rule of thumb, the further North you travel, the more the risk of flood increases. Never even think of traveling to the Northern Territory by road in Summer (rainy season). That’s when half of the territory is under water.

Speed bumps

Probably the biggest nuisance, one that virtually makes your head go through the roof, are speed bumps. You will find them in built-up areas all over Australia along with the ever so present black tire marks called “wheelies”. Speed bumps and traffic circles are the Aussie way of dealing with “Hoons” (young irresponsible drivers). The Government of New South Wales has taken an even stricter approach. Hoon vehicles will get confiscated and crushed by the police. A video of the process will be posted online, for everyone plus the owner of the car to see. “Dad, did you know that your Mercedes is on youtube”? Ouch...

Safety tip: Never engage in any road races or stunts, especially in New South Wales and watch out for speed bumps.

Drive safely, Mate!

Australia road quiz

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Comments 31 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Wow, Australia sure does have some unique conditions that people should keep in mind. Thanks for outlining them here!


novascotiamiss 5 years ago

Yes, Australia is a vast continent with a harsh climate, which most people underestimate. With the wrong expectations your road trip can turn into a nightmare, with the right preparations it will be a memorable adventure.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I was in Melbourne some years ago and loved it. Never had a chance to go out on the straight roads - not sure I dare after reading your hub. Very interesting. I am sure I would not enjoy the road trains - not a fan of any diesel truck for that matter. Great hub!


kafsoa profile image

kafsoa 5 years ago

I really wish to live in Australia not to die in it ;). Congratz for your hub for being nominated.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

I had fun in our visit to Australia and like Kafsoa hope not to die when I may have the chance to visit their again...heheh congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination!

To read and vote in the 1001 Arabian Hubnuggets: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/1001-Arabian-

To participate in the Hubnuggets forum: http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/74795


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Great hub. I thought the the dual train gravel haulers in the states were bad, I can't imagine encountering a road train! Congrats on the nomination.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Thanks guys and girls. I a pleased that you liked my hub but to tell you the truth, I've got no idea what a hubnugget nomination is. Now I'm intrigued and have to check up on it.


Guenter Hoernig 5 years ago

Good primer for this out-of-the-way continent - if you intend to visit the interior. I confined myself to the beaches, which are truly the most magnificent in the world, and not yet overun.


Albert Mehr 5 years ago

Chapeau! We spent four great years down under. This is one of the best and funniest stories we ever read!


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. This was a great hub, informative and funny. Those road trains look deadly. Along with all the other road hazards, I think I will be driven around when visiting Australia.

Namaste.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Thanks again for all your kind comments. My intention was not to scare people, I just wanted to make them more aware of the unusal dangers this beautiful country poses. We've seen too many young backbackers driving around with vehicles that were unfit for the road. One of them hardly had any thread left on the tires, white material was actually starting to show through the rubber. One of the passengers, a young german girl asked my husband over for his opinion if they could still drive a couple of thousand kilometres like this. We were shocked and sent them to the nearest garage. It's not that Australia doesn't have strict laws, it's the tourists who ignore them, not realizing that they endanger themselves and others.


kafsoa profile image

kafsoa 5 years ago

congratulations!Y|ou're the winner!


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Wow, I can't believe that my hub won the hubnugget of the week and got 63% of the votes. A million thanks to all of you, who have voted for me. By the way, all the pictures contained in my hub were taken by us during our 24'000 km circumnavigation of Australia back in 2008. Australia is an amazing place, I can highly recommend it. Maybe you also want to check out my other fun hub about Australia

http://hubpages.com/travel/How-to-catch-a-fish-wit...


kafsoa profile image

kafsoa 5 years ago

Sure we want to novascotiamiss;)I'm really happy you've had all those votes. I'm sure you've made a big effort here. congratulations again and waiting for more amazing hubs:)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

What an interesting hub! Congratulations on your well deserved win. You have some great information in your hub and I would love to visit Australia. Rated up.


parduc profile image

parduc 5 years ago from Kos island, Greece

Truly fantastic hub, I voted it up! Best regards,Liv


salt profile image

salt 5 years ago from australia

First of all. We are happy that we drive on the left. Its a very sensible side to drive on. Secondly, we value our Kangaroos. That is why many of us dont eat them. Roo meat is often used for dog food on farms from an anglo Australian perspective. I think I would only eat Kangaroo if it was cooked by a local indigenous person.

If you are in a place where it is 1000 kilometres to anywhere, you are in a remote area and should be a well experienced driver or have had excellent travel advise.

Road trains take much needed supplies to remote areas and are an experience. If you ever get to the Pilbara in Western Australia, there are iron ore trains too that have over 200 carriages which can take sometime to pass you if you are at a crossing.

As for speed bumps. If you've been outback Australia, they are not called speed bumps but cattle grids as the outback stations that are 100000s of thousands of hectares have cattle roaming widely. The cattle grids are there to slow you down. You used to be able to drive whatever speed you liked in these areas, but you cant do that any longer. (speed bumps are nothing!)

Water, the wet season exists in the northern parts of Western Australia and some parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland. That means, when it rains, it rains and it rains and it rains. This is usually in Nov - Jan or February, so if your travelling, pick you season to be in different places.

Finally, why not google Dorothea McCellands "I love a sunburnt country" which is a poem of our vast land.

Love to all you Canadians. There are a fair few of you living here now and I do love living here. Its an amazing and vast land. A place to live and love.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Thanks to all of you who have left a comment, it is much appreciated. Salt, re. the speed bumps: I was not referring to the cattle grids, these are not a problem. I meant the annoying speed bumps that you find all over built up areas to make hoons slow down. Re. Australians not eating Roo meat, did you know that North Americans would never eat horse meat? On the other hand horse meat is very popular in Europe. Different cultures eat different things... Thanks for the poem, I'll definitely check it out.


RosieG profile image

RosieG 5 years ago from Nerang Gold Coast Qld

As an Aussie, living on the Gold Coast in Queensland. I loved your article. It takes me 11 hours to visit my mother, I drive for 5 hours to Goondi turn left and drive straight down the Newell till I reach Gil.

By the way I love eating Kangaroo, it is very healthy and tasty meat.

Come and visit us anytime this is the greatest place.


Cathy I profile image

Cathy I 5 years ago from New York

Great story....I loved the videos as well. Thanks for showing us another interesting side of Australia. Don't think I would want to drive there, but I still plan to visit there.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Cathy, as I mentioned previously, driving is absolutely no problem in Australia and it's certainly not a dangerous place. It's just that tourists should be aware of the unusual dangers and act accordingly.


MJ Miller profile image

MJ Miller 5 years ago from East Tennessee

Great hub! Australia is one of the places that I've always wanted to visit. Now I know a little more about what it's like. Thanks.


UrsulaRose 5 years ago

Australia is certainly a land of many mysteries but one thing for sure is that unfortunately there will always be 'roadkill' to be seen and found (all year round)!

I don't think that anyone really gets used to the 'long distances' but rather we just point up with it as part of the norm of living in such a vast country.

Enjoying reading your Hub Articles.


JessicasPulse profile image

JessicasPulse 5 years ago from Virginia

Awesome Hub! I can't wait to visit Australia and also New Zealand. I am still getting used to seeing the dead deer everywhere here in VA, and the fact that they pounce right in front of your car giving you a mild stroke. I would be quite sad to see a kangaroo in that manner.


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

I just published a hub on driving in Florida and this popped up on the side. I am an old washed up surfer who almost ran off to Australia about two hundred times. Now that I can't do the waves at Kirra point real justice anymore, I see I can get still some excitement on the way there. Very rich hub. Do you realize that you spell funny?


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

WD Curry 111. Thanks for your comment. What do you mean by funny spelling? I guess as a European I studied Cambridge/Oxford English, which is the proper, old-fashioned English. The US spelling is sometimes quite different. Both are correct, depending on which English language you use. To tell you the truth, I quite often confuse the two.


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

Southern folks are always messing with each other . . . realise vs. realize . . . "do you realize that you spell funny". Get it? Color my world with your funny spelling! You are a great writer. Maybe I can learn English from you. I speak "Florida Redneck/Hippy Surfer". Californians think Florida surfers are rednecks, but the real rednecks think we are hippies.

Tourists almost always retort to our teasing ways with a serious response. One of my best friends went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. I kill him in "Scrabble". There are a lot of ways to spell Tzar.

See, I just fooled "Spell Check".

I'll be back.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

WD Curry: Rather stay a hippy than a redneck. Rednecks have guns, hippies have love....


AdventureFree profile image

AdventureFree 4 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

What a great hub! Haha I loved it. It's funny that living in Australia I didn't even think of some of these - probably because I'm used to it and I don't head out into the desert.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

I'm flattered that an Australian loved my hub. Go out an explore the desert. It's a worthwhile experience.


Ausemade profile image

Ausemade 4 years ago from Australia

Great hub... very funny... it reminds me of why I love Australia. We have an article on our website about "Dangerous Australian - Aquatic Holiday", to be followed by additional articles about crawling reptiles and dangerous tiny Australians, unless I do something here first. I use to live in the middle of the big city of Sydney, but now live in the heart of Australia surrounded by desert landscape...

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