22 June, 2020 By: Kirsty Petrides
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 roads.
So if you’re gearing up for a WA road-trip, make sure you stay safe with these simple tips.
1. Keep a safe distance
Regional roads can often be made of dirt or gravel, which create dust clouds when cars drive over them and hamper visibility for vehicles behind. There’s also the added risk of stones or gravel flying up from the wheels of cars ahead and damaging your windscreen.
The best way to maintain a safe following distance is to follow the two-second rule – when the car in front of you passes a landmark, like a tree or building, you should pass that same landmark roughly two seconds after them.
2. Slow down to avoid skidding
Another thing about gravel or dirt roads is that they’re a much looser surface than bitumen roads, making it easier to skid and lose control of your car. The best way to avoid skidding on unsealed roads is to slow down.
3. Keep your headlights on
Even in the daytime, as it will help other drivers see you.
4. Turn off your high-beams around other cars
It’s often necessary to use your high-beams on the long stretches of WA road, but make sure you turn them off when there is a car within 200 metres of you – either in front if you travelling in the same direction, or coming towards you – or if the oncoming vehicles headlights are dipped.
5. Don't attempt to cross flooded roads
It goes without saying that driving into water of unknown depth and current is very dangerous. Plus, driving through a flooded road can damage your engine, warp your brake’s rotors, and short circuit your car’s electric systems like windows and door locks, which is problematic if you get stuck. Turn around and find an alternate route.
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6. Overtake safely
Road-trains, trucks and caravans are common on regional roads, so you might 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. As a general rule – when in doubt, don’t proceed.
7. Avoid driving at dawn and dusk
The beautiful thing about the country is being able to see wildlife, but you don’t want to see them on the road.
Dusk and dawn is when animals – notably kangaroos - are at their most active, so by avoiding travelling at these times, you help reduce your risk of an animal collision.
8. If you do spot a roo, slow down
Some kangaroos can get up to 90 kilograms and move at a speed of 70km/hr, 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 onto the road, which would be dangerous for both them and drivers.
9. 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.
10. 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 where you’re 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.
Last updated December 2020