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The 6 strangest Aussie road rules every traveler should know before getting in a car

Dec. 08, 2019
6 min read
australia
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One of the best ways to see Australia is to get a car and hit the road. But before you put that key in the ignition it’s good to know that Australia has some pretty strange road rules (as well as different airport security, for that matter), and they can change when you cross a state line.

Peter Khoury, spokesperson for Australia’s National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA), says it’s important to get to know the road rules especially as the Australian ones may not be what you’re used to at home.

“Some road rules can seem confusing and others seem just out-and-out weird,” Khoury says.

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While there is a body called the National Transport Commission that tries to harmonize road rules across the country, some states have their own special laws. And even some of the Australia-wide ones may catch you by surprise.

Here are the rules to watch out for on your Aussie road trip.

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Honking your horn can get you in trouble

You’ve had a great time with friends and as you go to drive away you give them a goodbye beep on the horn. It may seem innocent enough, but if a policeman who sticks to the letter of the law hears you it could mean trouble.

In Australia-wide laws, it’s an offense to use your horn unless you’re warning another vehicle or an animal that you’re approaching. Fines vary from state to state, but in New South Wales (NSW) the ‘illegal use of a warning device’ penalty is a steep $298 AU ($204 USD).

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Be careful before you wave goodbye too. According to NSW Road Rule 268 no one traveling in a motor vehicle should have any part of their body outside the window or door, unless they are a driver giving a hand signal. So no putting your hand out to wave to someone, or having your elbow jutting out an open window on a sunny day.

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Splashing mud on pedestrians is not allowed

In NSW, drivers must not ‘splash mud on any person waiting at any bus stop’ or face a $165 AU fine ($113 USD).

This might seem reasonable, until you wonder why all the other pedestrians who aren’t standing at a bus stop are fair game. And why does it say mud anyway? With no mention of not being able to drench bus stop people with a puddle full of water it’s all a bit strange.

But here’s an idea: Let’s just do our best to avoid splashing anyone on the side of the street with mud or water because we don’t want to leave them all shocked and soggy.

It's illegal to leave your car unlocked

Earlier this year, a Sydney man was fined $112 AU ($77 USD) for leaving his car unlocked when he went into a service station. It was such a rare event the story ended up in the news, and a lot of people realized for the first time that they had been breaking the law when they did the same thing.

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Khoury says this peculiar road rule also known as the three-meter rule.

“If you are going to be more than three meters from your vehicle, you must secure it by turning off the engine, closing all the windows and locking all the doors.”

In Victoria and Queensland, if you’re more than three meters (10 ft.) away your windows must be wound up with a gap of no more than 5 cm (2 in.), while in NSW you can only have a 2 cm (1 in.) gap.

Interrupting a funeral procession is a no-no

Apart from being inconsiderate, in NSW it’s also illegal to interrupt or interfere with a funeral procession and can result in a maximum penalty of $2,200 AU ($1,505 USD).

In the recent National Transport Commission (NTC) Australian Road Rules 13th Amendment Package it was decided this rule should be extended across all Australian states, with each state and territory to introduce it within a reasonable time frame.

So do the right thing all around Australia. And the world for that matter, fine or no fine.

'Restive horses' have the right of way

In Queensland, failing to give way to a ‘restive horse’ is an offense. To save you reaching for the dictionary, the definition of a restive horse is one that is refusing to move, or is moving backward or sideways.

If you see one when you’re driving or if the rider lets you know they’re having trouble by signaling you, usually by raising their hand and pointing at the horse, you should pull over to the left side of the road and turn the engine off. You then need to stay nice and quiet where you are until everything is under control and you’re sure the car won’t upset the horse again.

Too many potatoes could cost you big time

And while it’s an unlikely scenario on your average road trip, we should also warn you that in Western Australia it’s illegal to transport more than 50 kg (110 lbs.) of potatoes in your car unless you’re a member of the Potato Corporation or an authorized agent.

Break this law and you’ll face a fine of $2,000 - 5,000 AUD ($1,368 - 3,420 USD) if you do it again. That’s no small potatoes.

So, when you’re planning that Aussie road trip check all the road rules, remember the obvious and the slightly strange ones, and enjoy the ride.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more