Western Australia is one of Australia’s best road trip states. Thousands and thousands of local and international tourists flock to the south-west region year-round to explore some of WA’s best down south locations.
While all travellers should adequately prepare for their road trip holiday, this is especially important for new drivers. New drivers may not have experience in driving longer-distant trips or experience on the long windy (somewhat unkept) roads through the WA countryside.
To help new drivers prepare for their first road trip in WA’s South West, we’ve put together a new drivers guide to travelling down south.
Getting Your License in Western Australia
Once you turn 16 and live in Western Australia, you can get your learners permit and start practising with an approved teacher or licensed driving instructor. There are some responsibilities for the person teaching you to drive such as they must:
- Have their full license for a minimum of four years in the class they’re planning to teach.
- Always display L plates on the vehicle when teaching to drive.
- Be aware of road rules applicable to new drivers.
It’s always recommended that new drivers invest in at least a few driving lessons at the start and end of their learning period to ensure best driving practices are put in place early and followed throughout.
It’s also recommended to book a defensive driving course for new drivers to teach more advanced driving skills and emergency procedures when driving. This could be a life-saving decision when travelling dangerous country roads which are often unpredictable.
Once you hit the age of 17 and have completed the required log book hours, you will need to sit a practical driving assessment. Once passed, new drivers will be on ‘P Plates’ for 2 years, with novice driver restrictions in place.
Your First Road Trip – 5 Driving Tips When Travelling Western Australia
So, you’ve just passed your license and are planning a road trip exploring Western Australia’s South West. Perhaps you’re planning to visit family or are rounding up your friends as the designated driver on your trip to school leavers.
There are a few important points to remember when travelling down south in Western Australia compared to city/metro driving which includes:
- The road speed limit may increase to 110km/h on certain roads when travelling down south. Keep a close eye on the changing speed limits.
- Petrol stations are much less frequent than in metro areas.
- Emergency service locations and vehicles are also much less frequent.
- Country roads can often be unfinished or have soft shoulders making it more difficult to pull over in an emergency.
As you are a new driver and there are some major differences between metro and country driving, it’s important that you adequately prepare for your journey. Before you take off, take note of some of these emergency numbers you may need when travelling in Western Australia.
Check your vehicle’s spare tyre to ensure it’s in working order and inflated. Check mirrors, temperature, oil, and all signals and lights to ensure they’re operating correctly.
Once you’ve completed your vehicle checks, it’s time to hit the road. Follow these tips when on your journey down south:
1. Take Your Time
The best part of a road trip down the south corridor of Western Australia is the beautiful scenery and attractions on the way. Rather than rushing to reach your destination, make the most of your trip by taking your time.
It’s not a race. Stick to the speed limit when travelling on country roads, just as you would on metro roads. Remember, as a new driver, one speeding fine could result in loss of licence.
2. Manage Distractions
When travelling on country roads, you’ll be dealing with distractions both inside and outside the vehicle. Other drivers will have a different driving style to yours, so keep a fair distance away from other vehicles where possible. Animals crossing the road unexpectantly is also common down south, so always keep alert about the potential of Kangaroos, cows or other animals crossing the road.
If you’re driving friends or family down south in your vehicle, inform them of the importance of not distracting you while you’re driving. Explain that you are a new driver and need all focus to be on getting everyone safely to the destination.
3. Keep Left Unless Overtaking
As is the case with metro driving, it’s important to always keep left when driving on country roads which have more than 1 lane. When looking to overtake, do not accelerate past the listed speed limit, and only overtake when you’re 110% sure it is safe to do so.
If you’re behind a large truck or caravan, it’s best to wait for an overtaking lane before attempting to overtake as overtaking with limited vision of what’s ahead is very dangerous.
4. Where Possible, Drive During the Day
It’s important that when learning to drive, you practice in both daylight and at night. After becoming a new driver and no longer having a person in the passenger seat watching over your actions, driving can often become daunting – especially at night.
Where possible, try to drive the longer distances down south while there is daylight. This will give you greater awareness of what’s happening around you, including a better focus on other drivers, and the potential of animals crossing the road.
5. Don’t Drive While Fatigued
Driving fatigued can cause you to be easily distracted, less alert, slower to react and can increase the risk of crashing.
If you are feeling fatigued on your trip down south, keep an eye out for a Driver Reviver site. At the Driver Reviver site, you can enjoy a free cup of tea and coffee, while taking a break from driving to rest and refresh. See some more driving tips here for travelling Western Australia.
Best Down South Destinations for New Drivers
Drive two hours south of Perth and you’ll arrive in the port city of Bunbury. Bunbury has some great local attractions and beaches perfect for travellers seeking some sun and water. The short distance from Perth makes it great for first time driver’s seeking some long-distance driving experience.
Find more things to see and do in Bunbury on the City of Bunbury website.
Thirty to Forty minutes further south and you’ll arrive in Busselton. Busselton is a West Australian tourist hotspot, and the small city has everything you could require to continue your travels through the south-west.
While you’re in Busselton, make sure you visit the Busselton Jetty, an iconic part of Busselton’s history and the second largest wooden jetty in the world.
While Margaret River is known as an award-winning winery and brewery region, there’s a bunch of things you can do that don’t involve wine, perfect for new drivers. Get amongst nature with some mountain biking, horse riding or hiking. Or head for the coast and adventure on a stand-up paddleboard, skydive and land on the beach, or kayak up Margaret River.
Have more tips for new WA drivers travelling down south? Leave a comment below!
This article is written by Alex Hamilton, who recommends Eclipse Driving School – A team of professional driving instructors servicing the greater Perth Metro area. You can read more about Alex on LinkedIn.