Outback Driving Safety Tips

Posted Posted in Driving

There’s a difference between traveling say, in the Flinders Ranges and in the far Outback. On a main road in the Flinders Ranges, there’ll usually be some form of traffic passing every few minutes – on a side road , every few hours.

On a main road in the far Outback, you might be the only vehicle there for a day – on a side road, several days! Even though you’ll find many towns and campsites throughout the area, we must stress that you’ll be in wilderness country.

Wilderness can be unpredictable – so you’d be wise to be prepared for all events. Freecall 1800 633 060 and you’ll get sound, up-to-the-minute advice, and have access to a comprehensive range of brochures and maps.

Most will travel by car (2WD or 4WD) and the check-list below indicates what we feel you should have in your car at all times:

  1. Maps of the area – as detailed as possible. If you know where you are, you’ll never be lost.
  2. A compass, matches or a lighter and fire-lighter blocks.
  3. Water: See the section on “Water”.
  4. Food: Enough for each person for two days, carried in an esky or 12V fridge.
  5. Clothes: Two changes of clothes, one for the heat, one for when it becomes cold. However hot the days may be, nights are cold. Everyone should wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and worn-in comfortable shoes or boots (never thongs). Be prepared!
  6. Medicine: Most people never need it, but you could be glad you took a kit with bandages, plasters, an antiseptic cream, sunblock, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, insect repellent, a pain-reliever, anything else you feel you may need – and a booklet on first aid. Some outdoor shops sell good snake bite kits.
  7. Tools: A complete set, especially a jack that works (and you know how to work it); if going to the remote Outback, take two jacks and preferably two spare tyres (before you set out, make sure your spare tyres are correctly inflated); spare globes, spare fanbelt, spare fuses, one or two big flashlights. (Shovel – A long-handled shovel is a must).
  8. Radio: One that can pick up at least one station, so you’ll get those all-important weather reports. – When in the remote Outback, it’s important to carry a 2-way HF radio with Flying Doctor and Telstra frequencies. Mobile phone signal coverage is very limited – in most areas it is non-existent.
  9. A loud metal whistle – to signal if you’re ever lost.

Carrying fuel in jerry cans – Carrying extra fuel is not usually necessary – except in the remote Outback when towns are a long way apart. Most towns have fuel facilities, so simply plan ahead and keep your tank topped up as you go. If you are using jerries, check for small pin holes before you leave.

If you get stranded – stay with the car. Never leave it. Use it for shade. This is the most important advice we can give you. People have died after walking away from the safety of their vehicle.

WHEN DRIVING IN THE OUTBACK ALWAYS REMEMBER TO:

  1. Inform family or friends of your travel plans and intended route
  2. Check the conditions of Outback roads before leaving the nearest major town
  3. Take care when driving 4WD vehicles, eg drive at reduced speeds on unsealed roads
  4. Note where petrol stations are en route
  5. Take frequent rest breaks and change drivers regularly
  6. Carry extra supplies of water and food
  7. Carry extra spare tyres and tools in remote areas
  8. Hire appropriate emergency communication equipment eg. satellite phones
  9. Obey road closure signs and stick to the main roads
  10. In an emergency, stay with your vehicle

Walking

Make sensible arrangements. Before you set out anywhere, get local advice about conditions and the trails. Advise people of your intended trip, when you’ll be leaving, when you think you’ll be back; so if you’re not back, they can get help to you. Never walk alone. Carry water, food, a map, a compass, a whistle, a lighter and some fire-lighter blocks. Wear protective clothing; and whatever the temperature, carry clothing to protect you from the cold.

In An Emergency

If correctly planned, your trip will go smoothly and happily. But from time to time, people do get lost. Remember, don’t panic, just sit down and study your maps. Work out where you came from, and slowly take that route back. If you can’t find the way back, move to higher ground, share out the food and water, listen for rescuers, and signal if you hear them. Signal with three torch flashes; and with your whistle. During the day, light a small smoky fire of green leaves. As night comes, light a small bright fire with dry materials. Be prepared to wait. Watch for exposure, too. From heat – people become pale, clammy and breathe rapidly. They should rest in the shade, be sponged with cool water, and drink cool water with a little salt dissolved in it. From cold – they become slow and irritable, may stumble, get cramps, shiver, and get blurred vision. They should rest in shelter from the wind and the rain, wrap up as warmly as possible, share a sleeping bag, have warm drinks.

Water

As you tour, you’ll find that most towns have water – but at some places, you may not be able to get drinking water. So we recommend that you carry drinking water with you – in very hot conditions or in the Outback, carry 10 litres of water a person a day. It may seem like a lot, but when it’s hot you should drink about a litre an hour. Don’t rely on waterholes, dams, bores, mills, tanks or troughs. Soap or detergents should not be used in any natural watercourse or stock watering point.

Most Important Tip

The Royal Automobile Association (RAA) produces a booklet entitled ‘Outback Motoring’. The booklet contains all the information you need about preparing for your Outback trip and surviving in the case of an emergency. Get hold of a copy (Ph +61 8 8202 4540) and keep it in the glovebox.