Australian driving rules ensure that drivers of all ages drive in the safest possible way. The stringent requirements from obtaining a driving license, detailed traffic signs, driving rules and safety regulations are instituted to assure safer driving habits amongst its drivers.
Australians drive keeping to the left of the road. This is different from some other countries. An overview of the traffic rules and regulations are detailed as follows.
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Obtaining a Driving License
- The minimum age requirement to obtain a driving license in Australia is 16 years. After passing the test one is qualified for a Learner’s Permit on which he is permitted to drive for two years.
- On completion of driving for a minimum of 12 months on a Learner’s Permit, he is eligible to apply for Provisional License – P1.
- A driver qualifies for the Provisional License – P2 when he is 18 years and above and has held P1 license for a minimum period of 1 year.
- Anyone who is 20 years or older is eligible for the Full Driving License provided he has completed 2 years of driving on his P2 License.
- The maximum speed limit outside built-up areas is 100 km/h and within built-up areas is 50 km/h.
- Speed limits of 25 km/h are imposed at school crossings and koala crossings. This speed limit is applicable when passing school buses that have stopped for picking or dropping students or passing emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. In some residential areas, speed limits have been fixed at 40 km/h.
- In shared zones where both pedestrians and vehicles are permitted, the speed has to be kept to a minimum of 10 km/h.
- Racing and over-speeding are prohibited on the roads. The police confiscate number plates which is equivalent to impounding of the vehicle.
- Regulatory – Signs that must be obeyed: Stop; Give way, Speed Limit, No Right/ Left turn.
- Warning – Signs that warn of impending hazards or unusual feature on the road: Speed advice at curves and bends, etc.
- Direction – Signs that provide information to the driver: distances to places, directions to towns and roads, emergency services, lay-bys, telephones, etc.
- Temporary – Signs that caution the driver about work on the road, closed lanes or detours.
- A continuous white lane line should not be crossed unless to overtake a cyclist or to avoid any other obstruction.
- Bus lanes are denoted by signs. This is for buses, bicycles, taxis and emergency vehicles during the times mentioned on the signs. • ‘Bus Only’ lanes are painted with a red box with ‘Bus Only’ written in white. The lanes are marked by a continuous red line alongside the white lane marking.
- Bicycle lanes are colored green and are designated for the exclusive use of bicycle riders.
- Transit Lanes are indicated by signs T2 and T3. T2 can be used by any vehicle with two or more passengers including the driver and T3 can be used by vehicles with three or more passengers including the driver.
- Traffic lights follow the sequence of red, yellow, green.
- Most of the traffic lights have arrow lights at the intersections. At a red arrow light, you are not allowed to turn in the direction of the arrow. Yellow arrow cautions the driver about the turn of lights preparing him to stop. Green arrow light permits turn in the direction of the arrow.
- When traffic lights are not functional, the rule of Giving Way to the Right or at a T-intersection has to be obeyed wherever applicable.
- Signs stating ‘Turn left when the lights are red’ allows the driver to turn left before the lights turn to green after giving way to pedestrians and other vehicles.
- Flashing yellow light signals the driver to proceed with caution.
- White ‘T’ light is an indication to a tram driver and ‘B’ light is an indication to the bus driver that they may continue to drive or proceed.
- Red/Green bicycle lights with symbols indicate to cyclists whether to stop, proceed or wait.
- U-turns cannot be made at all intersections unless there is a sign permitting U-turn.
- Bicycle storage area or bike box is an area on the road with bicycle symbols painted on it. This area will be painted green. Vehicles are not allowed to enter the storage area when the lights are red.
- Seat belts are to be worn by the driver and all passengers while the vehicle is in motion.
- Children between the ages of 6 months to 7 years are to be seated on rear passenger seats. An infant restraint or a child safety seat with harness has to be used.
- A child of any age with a medical condition or disability is allowed to sit on the front seat. They should be properly restrained and the driver should carry a medical certificate.
- Cyclists, moped and motor scooter drivers are required to wear a helmet and appropriate riding gear.
- Usage of mobile phones while driving is not allowed.
- Headlights, rear lights
andnumber plate lights are to be turned on when driving in the dark or when visibility is poor
- Driving with only park lights
isconsidered to be an offence.
- Headlights can be momentarily flashed on high beam to indicate overtaking.
- Lights should be dipped within 200 m of an oncoming vehicle and while nearing the rear of a vehicle.
- Hazard lights can be used by drivers in bad weather and to warn other drivers of obstructions.
- It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other prescription medicines which impair driving skills. The blood alcohol level should not be in excess of 0.05 %.
- Australia follows a zero-tolerance policy for drivers on Provisional Licenses. Zero tolerance is applicable to drivers of taxis, buses and heavy vehicles.
- It is advisable to check the local weather conditions if driving long distances. Bush-fires, floods, cyclones could happen anytime.
- Overtaking is permitted only where the centre line marking is a single broken line.
- While overtaking a road train, allow plenty of distance as the wind rush will pull the vehicle towards it.
- Where lanes are not marked, the driver should drive near the left side of the road.
- Double unbroken lines can be crossed only in cases of hazards like an accident or fallen tree or when a car is parked illegally.
- Give way signs are an integral part of Australian traffic rules. It is important to give way to pedestrians, bicycle riders, buses, trams and trains, vehicles at intersections and roundabouts. Giving way indicates slowing down or if necessary stopping to allow vehicles to proceed safely avoiding collisions.
- Freeways or expressways allow movement of vehicles at speeds higher than on normal roads. The right lane must be freed for overtaking. A safe distance from other vehicles has to be maintained at all times. Drivers have to be alert as traffic from behind may move at very high speeds.
- A vehicle is not permitted to make U-turns or reverse on a freeway. They are not permitted to stop or park unless in cases of emergencies. Pedestrians, cyclists, animal-drawn vehicles and animals are prohibited from using freeways.
- Horns must be used only to warn pedestrians and other vehicles of dangers.
- Parking signs are displayed showing the time duration for which a vehicle can be parked on specific days.
- Parking for more than 2 minutes in a No Parking Zone is not allowed. The driver has to remain in or within 3 m of the vehicle if he does stop in this zone.
- Pay parking sign allows parking for the duration shown on the signs provided the charges are paid.
- While parking on a hill or a curve it has to be ensured that the vehicle is visible to an oncoming vehicle from 100 m away.
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On-the-spot fines, demerit points, suspension and disqualification of licenses act as deterrents to the violation of traffic regulations. Adhering to the set of traffic rules makes driving easier and the roads safer.