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Tailgate mate? Say g'day to driving in Australia.

Updated on December 28, 2010

Land of the freeway signs

The first line of the Australian national anthem begins, "Australians all, let us rejoice, for we are young and free."

Australia may be a young country and in the broad sense it is a very free country but when it comes to driving Australians are some of the most highly regulated, road-ruled motorists in the world.

The result is surprising. Australians are dangerous drivers. Confused? Pull up close to my bumper and follow along and all will be explained.

Australian roads are sign-posted within an inch of the extreme. Speed limits, road markings, construction works, parking ordinance notices, flashing billboards with upcoming road closures, reminders that you are entering a school zones, reminders that you are exiting a school zone, warnings about speed cameras, warnings about crossing wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, warnings about bushfires, horses, bicycles, don't queue on the intersection, keep left unless over-taking, the 'road is there to share', beware of the hump, the corner, the bridge, the cars entering from the left, the traffic merging from the right - The list is endless.

As a driver you have little option but to assume that someone, somewhere, know exactly what's going to happen and will let you know with a sign in case it's about to.

Rules remove reasoning

The more finely grained a system of rules becomes the less people tend to think for themselves. Rules replace the need to make decisions because they remove choices. You don't have a choice so you don't need to make one. Plus, when there's a rule and a road sign for every situation, you tend to expect people to follow those rules, putting yourself at risk because you're not prepared for the unexpected. When everything goes as expected for too long you are royally screwed when it doesn't.

Maybe Australia needs some signs like this.


The result of all the rules:

Forget the crocodiles, beware the tailgaters:

Australians, knowing as they do, that if there's was any danger in driving three-feet behind the car in front at 120kph (75mph), then there would be a sign . So, they do, almost always. This is to hurry you up. The speed limit might say 90kph (56mph), but that's just what the sign says. Everyone knows you can safely ignore it to the tune of around 15% in your favor. Most dedicated tailgaters feel they are doing a community service, helping everyone get to the beach sooner.

The fact that a deranged koala, dazzled by the midday heat, might wander into the on coming traffic and cause the car in front to stop doing 120 and start doing some serious braking, doesn't occur to the Aussie driver. There's no sign for it. Sure, there's one with a koala on it (koalas crossing - next 2kms), but it doesn't say anything about having to actually stop.

Parking? You serious? Get outta the way!

Patiently waiting behind you as you reverse park in to your desired spot is not an Australian. If someone does and you're in Australia, it's probably a tourist. Australians have someplace to be! You might've stopped but there's no sign which says, "Wait for parkers" or "Be restful for the sake of the reversing". So, pull up, put on your indicator, put the car into reverse and then wait while every car behind you veers into the on coming traffic to get past you before you can get your vehicle into the spot.

Changing lanes? Change your mind.

Sometimes when you are changing lanes, people let you in. None of those times are in Australia. If you're lucky, when you indicate, the car just behind you will accelerate to fill the available gap before the car behind him cottons-on. Then there will be a gap behind his car for you to push into, quickly. If you're not lucky you'll miss your turn-off. Luckily for you, Australia is the Lucky Country, so you'll probably get lucky and get to where you're going in time, but it won't be because anyone let you in.

In New Zealand there's a sign to tell you how to merge - 'Like a zipper'. No such sign has been produced in Australia. Until then, you'll have to rely on dumb luck.

Aussies are famed for being easy going and friendly and this is pretty much true. It's just not at all true on the road. Behind the wheel the average Australian goes from Crocodile Dundee with smile to Russell Crowe in a phone-throwing mood.

So, be warned but bloody well be there because it's a great place to visit.


She looks sweet but she's not going to let you merge.


Got comments? Been to Australia? Perhaps you're from Australia. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Actually, if you are from Australia, here's a sign for you:

Leave a comment.


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    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Too right Mervyn. Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      Mervyn Thomas 4 years ago

      It is most certainly the best bloody country in the world, but the tailgating really is bad.

    • profile image

      Driver Dan 5 years ago

      Please explain how tapping your brake lights would cause an accident?

    • profile image

      Canadian 5 years ago

      So true! I just make point pull over frequently and let the crazed mob on my tailgate get past.

    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for your comment Matt. In extreme cases I repeatedly tap my brake lights. People back right off ( or get really mad ).

    • profile image

      matt 6 years ago

      Brilliant. I've been here 1 year and the tailgating still terrifies me. Everytime I leave a 2 second gap someone is guaranteed to undertake me and wedge into it...

    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks mate.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 6 years ago from UK

      Funny :-)