22 June, 2020

In a state as big as Western Australia, driving holidays can often mean a long time behind the wheel.

While it’s exciting to explore some of WA's best road trips, country roads present very different risks to city driving.

So if you’re gearing up for a WA road trip, make sure you stay safe.

1. Keep a safe distance

Some regional roads have loose, gravel surfaces, which create dust clouds and hamper visibility for vehicles behind. There is also a risk of stones flying up and damaging the windscreens of passing vehicles or those following behind.

The risk of skidding and loosing control of your car is also much greater on gravel and dirt roads so always slow down on unsealed roads.

To maintain a safe following distance, follow the two-second rule. When the car in front of you passes a landmark, like a tree, you should pass that same landmark roughly two seconds after them.

Image of car driving through national park

2. Turn off your high-beam around other cars

When using your headlights on high-beam on the long stretches of road, but make sure you turn them off when there is a car within 200 metres of you – either in front if you are travelling in the same direction, or coming towards you or if the oncoming vehicle's headlights are dipped.

3. Don't attempt to cross flooded roads

It goes without saying that driving into water of unknown depth and current is very dangerous. Driving through a flooded road can also damage your engine, warp your brake’s rotors, and short circuit your car’s electric systems including those controlling windows and door locks. Turn around and find an alternate route.

RELATED: Top 5 road trips up north »

4. Overtake safely

Road-trains, trucks and caravans are common on regional roads, so you may find yourself behind a slow-moving vehicle.

On roads with only one lane, you can overtake if the white line down the middle of the road is broken. Do not overtake when there is a single or double continuous white centre line. Before overtaking, check for oncoming traffic ahead to ensure you have enough time to overtake the vehicle.

And if it’s a road-train you’re overtaking, allow yourself extra time as they can be up to 60 metres long. When in doubt, don’t proceed.

5. Avoid driving at dawn and dusk

Dusk and dawn is when animals – notably kangaroos - are at their most active. To reduce your risk of an animal collision, avoid travelling at these times.

Image of wildlife signs on roadside

6. If you do spot a roo, slow down

Some kangaroos can weigh up to 90 kilograms and move at a speed of 70km/h, which could inflict considerable force and damage to you and your car.

If you’re heading into an area where kangaroos are known to live or see one nearby the road, slow down and sound your horn – the loud noise can help dissuade them from coming closer to the road.

RELATED: What to do if you find an injured animal at the roadside »

7. Cap driving time

Long car trips can be fatiguing for the driver, so limit driving to eight hours a day, and take a break every two hours. If you’re travelling with others people, swap drivers if possible.

It also helps to know the signs of fatigue - like yawning, blinking more than usual and slowed reaction time – so you can recognise when you’re getting tired and take a break.

8. Prepare before leaving

Before setting off, plug your destination into your GPS and plan your stops. Knowing your route and exactly when you’ll be taking a break means you’ll be less tempted to look at maps and guides while behind the wheel.

Also prepare your driver’s seat - an incorrect driving position, such as sitting too high or too low, can reduce your visibility. A good rule is to allow a slight bend in your knees, straightened arms on your steering wheel and your head positioned in the middle of your headrest.

Ready to hit the road?

To help you travel safely, RAC is offering free car checks and caravan safety sessions across Perth and regional WA.

Find out more

Last updated December 2020