Blue Mountains News

Driving Safely Around the Blue Mountains

By Darren Cottingham
DriverKnowledgeTests.com
Archived 13 Feb 2015 - Posted: 13 Oct 2014
Great Western Highway, Blaxland.
Seeing the Blue Mountains on a self-drive holiday is an excellent way to get to the more difficult places, especially if you are interested in visiting sites which are a bit further away such as Yerranderie. Tourist drivers are welcome on our roads, but must know the road rules which are fairly uniform throughout Australia.

If you are hiring a car from Sydney the foothills of the Blue Mountains are around 50 minutes’ drive away. Check your rental car agreement to make sure you are not confined to metropolitan Sydney.

The Blue Mountains have a mix of smooth dual carriageways through to rough unsealed roads which will need four-wheel drive if poor weather. You may have restrictions on taking your rental car on unsealed roads, so check your destination details before you set out.

What to expect when driving

If you have only ever driven overseas Australia has a few road rules which will be unfamiliar to you – check out these free road rules quizzes used by many rental vehicle companies and learner drivers alike.

Australia is a beautiful country with distracting scenery, especially in places like the Blue Mountains. If you are the driver make sure you take frequent breaks to take the views in rather than be distracted from looking at the road.

As Australia is a long way from many other countries, you might be suffering a bit of jet lag, so take it easy out there.

Rules

You must carry your driver’s licence with you at all times when you are driving. All passengers must wear seat belts, and children up to the age of seven must be in an approved child restraint or booster seat (your rental car company should be able to provide these).

All our speed limits are marked in kilometres per hour and our distances are marked in kilometres. 100kph is 62mph.

We drive on the left like in the UK, New Zealand, India and Japan, and the steering wheel will be on the right of the car. While you are getting used to having most of your vehicle on your left take care not to run your left-hand wheels over the edge of the road. If you’re used to driving on the right, exiting one-way bridges can be confusing, too. Remember to keep left as you exit.

On a roundabout (a ‘turning circle’ if you are from North America), you give way to traffic from the right and use the roundabout in a clockwise direction. Our roundabout rules are very simple: if you’re turning left, indicate left and stay in the left lane; if you’re going straight ahead, choose any lane that has a straight ahead arrow and just after you’ve passed the exit before the one you want to take, indicate left; if you’re turning right, approach the roundabout in the right-hand lane while indicating right, then indicate left just after the exit before the one you want to take.

At intersections (junctions), give way to traffic coming from straight ahead (if you are turning across its path) or from the right. There is no such thing as a 4-way stop like in North America; the give way rules define who has right-of-way. If you are waiting at a stop sign, though, you have least priority.

The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%, but it’s much safer for the driver not to drink as the roads and environment will be unfamiliar.

Drivers from the UK will find it odd that you can overtake on the left on a motorway or dual carriageway.

Signs and road markings

The majority of our signage is based on international conventions, but there are some variations.

Unlike in New Zealand and the UK, we have a dashed yellow line for a clearway (an area where you are not allowed to park) which is operational at certain times of the day, and a solid yellow line that means no parking.

There is no free turn on a red light like there is in North America unless there is a sign specifically stating that you can (usually only after stopping).

Pedestrian crossings are marked with a zigzag line in the middle of the road leading up to the crossing.

A continuous yellow line in the centre of the road (on your side) means that you must not overtake.

Large animals

In most places in Australia you should be cautious of kangaroos, especially at dusk when they are very active and can jump out in front of your car. A 50-60kg kangaroo can cause a lot of damage. Other large animals to watch out for are emus and domesticated cattle. The Blue Mountains are home to around 400 different types of animals and some of them are uncommon or even endangered, so keep your speed down. If you see an animal on the road at night, your full beam headlights will be blinding it and it will find it difficult to escape. Slow down, turn your headlights onto dipped beam or your sidelights only and sound your horn. This should frighten it off into the bush.

Enjoying driving around the Blue Mountains

The Greater Blue Mountains Drive is a loop with 18 discovery trails that covers 1200km of roads. They are suitable for day trips through to extended journeys; you could spend the best part of three weeks covering it all.

There’s plenty to do on any of the routes including hiking, horse riding, bird watching, galleries, cafes, gardens, rock climbing, caves, cycling and mountain biking, glow worms and vineyards. Check out our comprehensive list of things to do in the Blue Mountains on this page.

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