Basic Rules

  • Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia.
  • When you are turning right at an intersection you must always give way to vehicles travelling left, oncoming traffic, and any pedestrians crossing the road.
  • Pedestrians have right of way at all intersections.
  • There is a blood alcohol limit of 0.05. Random breath tests operate around the state in all metropolitan and country areas.
  • Drivers are required to carry a licence at all times.
  • Seat belts must be worn by all passengers. If not, the driver of the car receives the fine, not the passengers.

Freeway Etiquette

On freeways or highways with more than one lane, the lane to the furthest right is the passing lane. It is a fineable offence to remain in this lane if you are not passing traffic. Common driving etiquette dictates that you should remain in the lane furthest to the left or middle lanes, and only merge to the right lane if it is necessary to pass.

Speed Limits

  • The speed limit in urban areas is usually 50km/h. If you don’t see any speed signs, you MUST stick to 50km/h in residential areas even if the drivers behind you get frustrated.
  • During morning and afternoon times (around 7.45 – 9.30am and 3.15 – 4.30pm) you may be restricted to 40km/h if you are driving in a school zone. You will see signs that indicate this.
  • Freeways usually have a limit of between 80 and 110 km/h. Check for signage and stick to 80km/h if you are not sure.

Hook Turns

  • Hook turns are a unique Melbourne traffic rule instituted to accommodate trams in the CBD. As Hook Turns are used no where else in Australia, Melbourne has become infamous among out-of-state drivers. Hook Turns occur on most roads that have tram tracks going through an intersection. They will be noted by a “Right Turn from Left Only” sign (http://ungatoentrecanguros.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/hook_turn_sign_melbourne1.jpg).
  • In order to turn right, you must get in the furthest left lane (with your right indicator on), and wait in front of the cross-road traffic until they get their green light, then turn right across all lanes. Be sure to check over your right shoulder to ensure no late entries into the intersection, or errant cyclists, before beginning your turn.
  • As this manoeuvre can be difficult to imagine without having seen it in action, it is highly recommended you observe a hook turn in person before attempting to drive in Melbourne.

Trams

  • Trams share the road with cars and have right-of-way. They also have the informal right to run red lights, so take one last look if your facing light is green, before crossing the intersection.
  • If you are driving beside a tram (this will always be on the tram’s left) and you see its brake lights, you must stop. There are tiny little stop signs on tram doors that swing out when the doors open, but you will need to be stopped by then or you will hit someone getting off. Tram passengers step directly out into the road and cross your lane to reach the pavement, so it’s really important to give way.

Parking

  • Most areas are pay parking (especially in the CBD) and all are time-limited. The signage will tell you what to do.
  • If you do not have a valid ticket on your dashboard, or a paid meter, your fine will be between $80 and $160. Tickets are available from machines near your parking space, much like a parking meter.
  • You MUST park in the direction that traffic is facing, so no quick dashes to the other side of the road without first turning around.

Accidents

  • If you are in an accident, first check that everyone is alright. If not, call 000 (the emergency number in Australia) and ask for ambulance and police.
  • If it is a minor accident, exchange insurance details with the other party (as well as names and phone numbers). If it is not your fault, ask to see a copy of their ID to prove they are who they say they are.
  • In the case that neither party claims responsibility, it can be helpful to snap some photos (either with a camera, or camera phone) to present to insurance companies later.
  • If you hit a stationary car and they are not present, leave a note with your name and phone number on it. Not everyone does, but it is the legal and morally correct thing to do.
  • As soon as these details are taken care of, you are welcome to leave. The exception to this is if the police need to be called; you should then stay at the scene of the accident to offer information if you are needed. If you leave, it can be called Fleeing the Scene and can have grave consequences.
  • If you have damaged someone else’s car, tell your insurance company. They will make a note of it and tell you what to do next. The same applies if someone else has damaged your car, as your insurance company will pay for your repairs and approach the other driver to compensate them.
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