Outside of major cities and the coastal routes between some state capitals, Australian highways are mainly two lane undivided sealed asphalt roads. While less than 15% of Australia's population lives in regional and rural areas, about 60% of fatal accidents occur on these roads, because the speeds are freeway-like (speed limits vary between 100km/h and 130km/h) but the conditions are more dangerous than freeways because there is no barrier or division from oncoming traffic.
Some rural highways have regular overtaking lanes but on others you will need to pass slower traffic by pulling into the right hand lane (the one with oncoming traffic). Obviously this should be done when there is no actual oncoming traffic and when you have plenty of visibility, and should be done as quickly as possible. Do not ever overtake by pulling off the road to the left, Australian drivers won't anticipate this even if the shoulder is sealed and it is very dangerous and illegal to drive onto an unsealed shoulder.
Some less major rural roads, and outback roads, are unsealed gravel roads. These are harder to drive on at high speeds and you will have to contend with the odd stone being thrown up. Windscreen damage is not unusual. Typically, rental car companies do not allow their cars to be taken off sealed roads, even if the unsealed road is an official minor road. Many gravel roads in the south are in good condition and experienced drivers tend to drive on them as fast as they would on the sealed roads. When on gravel it is essential to slow down well before a corner or you risk skidding as you turn. Loose or drifting gravel also poses a hazard as it will pull at your tyres. If you feel you are losing control on gravel, slow down, but try to avoid braking sharply. Roads in the northern tropics are often sandy, rocky or corrugated. If you get the feeling for it, it's a lot of fun! I loved it! But stay concentrated all the time!
When you are driving on Australia's open roads you may see dead animals on the side of the road. The fact is, quickly swerving or braking heavily could cause a much more serious accident. Sundown and sunrise are times to be on the alert through the Australian bush, also in regions where you will encounter water sources like rivers and reservoirs, or the plains surrounding mountain ranges.
If you come across multiple tyre marks on the road, this could suggest that animals regularly use this part of the road as a crossing, so just be a little more aware, and also, using the high beam head lights at night, will make it harder for an animal to find an appropriate escape route, so practice flicking them off for animals as well as for on coming traffic.
Do not enter creek or gully crossings without first checking for depth, dips and holes and finding the shallowest path. Water crossings in northern Australia (Far North Qld, Kimberley, Top End) are often inhabited by crocodiles so it is not advisable to walk these rivers. Vehicles are washed away more easily than most people realise.
Mobile (cell) phone coverage will probably be highly intermittent even on relatively major highways unless you are near a population centre. Check the coverage of the network you are using.
If you can budget for it, a mobile phone car kit with an external antenna can increase your range. Again, consult the coverage charts to see where an external antenna may help.
Telstra Mobile coverage maps
Some mountain and tableland areas of NSW and Victoria are noted for having very frosty nights that may cause diesel to solidify in vehicles causing the engine to stop or run abnormally. Usually vehicles will run normally without intervention, when the morning warms, at about 9.00 AM.
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