Driving

Driving in New South Wales

Visitors driving in New South Wales must observe the licence requirements for visitors. You must carry your licence with you when you are driving. There is an on-the-spot fine for not having your licence with you. Additionally, if your licence is not in English, you must carry an English translation when driving in Australia.

If you are uncertain of any requirement or have other road safety inquiries, telephone NSW Roads and Maritime Services on 13 22 13.

Speed limits

Drive at or below the posted speed limit. Slow down more in wet weather. The Police regularly conduct speed checks using fixed and mobile speed cameras, radar and lasers along all types of roads.

The default speed limit in a local or suburban area in New South Wales is 50 km/h. A speed limit of 40 km/h applies around schools in the mornings and afternoons during school terms. The maximum speed on highways in New South Wales is 100 km/h. The maximum speed limit on motorways and freeways is 110 km/h.

Special speed limit for learner drivers and riders

In NSW, visiting learner drivers and riders must not drive/ride faster than the learner speed limit imposed by their issuing State and must observe the posted speed limit in NSW, where it is below the limit imposed by the licensing State.

It is the responsibility of visiting learner licence holders to ensure they are aware of the conditions imposed by their issuing licensing authority, these conditions still apply to their licence when travelling in NSW.

Demerit points and heavy penalties apply to learner drivers exceeding the speed limit and committing offences in NSW. This can include the Police immediately suspending at the roadside, your right to drive in New South Wales.

Offences committed in NSW

Under a national agreement between Australian licensing authorities, if you commit a speeding offence or certain other offences when driving in NSW, details of the offence will be sent to your home State or Territory. Your home State or Territory may apply demerit points and these will contribute to the suspension of your licence if you exceed your demerit point threshold.

If you are convicted of an offence in a NSW Court, details of the offence will also be sent including information of any disqualification periods that were imposed. If you are disqualified by a NSW Court, you cannot drive in NSW. You should contact your home State or Territory to see if you can drive there as well.

Driver fatigue

Rest every two hours! Australia is a vast country and car trips outside major cities may take several hours or even days.

Driver fatigue is a serious road safety concern, involved in nearly a fifth of fatal crashes in Australia. If you are driving long distances (such as from a Regional area to Sydney, or to a park and ride interchange location), try to have a passenger with a current driver's licence share the driving with you. You should both have a full night's sleep the previous night, particularly if you are likely to be driving at times when you would normally be asleep.

Take at least a 15 minute break from driving every two hours. This is important even if you are near your destination, as fatigue crashes can occur near a journey's end.

It is also possible for fatigue crashes to happen on short journeys, or near the start of a trip. The way to avoid these is simply not to drive if you feel tired and know your concentration is not at its best.

To find out about the distances between major interstate centres in Australia, use our Time & Distance Calculator.

Alcohol

Australia has strict laws about drinking alcohol and driving. Australian Police are authorised to stop any vehicle and breath test the driver at any time. There is no absolute safe level of alcohol consumption for competent driving. For fully licensed car drivers the legal limit is 0.05 g/100ml. For special licence categories the legal limit is 0.02 (which in practice means no alcohol at all). Learner and provisional drivers or riders (which includes equivalent L and P drivers and riders visiting NSW) must not exceed zero blood alcohol. If tested by the Police, drivers must be below their allowable legal limit.

If you are going to drink any alcohol the best advice is to plan not to drive at all. Guides are available for drinking very moderate quantities of alcohol over time and remaining below the 0.05 legal BAC level (for fully licensed car drivers) but because everybody's metabolism differs the effects of alcohol will not be the same in every case.

The police perform regular roadside "random breath testing" (RBT) of drivers in metropolitan and rural areas. There are heavy penalties for drink driving, including imprisonment (see Laws and Penalties for Alcohol).

Seatbelts

It is a requirement for everyone, including visitors, to use seatbelts at all times. Baby capsules or child restraints must be used for all children.

Motorways and freeways

Because traffic travels at high speed on motorways and freeways, you must be especially alert.

  • Do not stop on a motorway or freeway, except in an emergency. If you must stop, move off the roadway completely
  • Do not make a 'U' turn or reverse on a motorway or freeway
  • Keep to the left, unless overtaking

Hazards

Warning signs usually tell you that there may be dangers ahead. Pictures, diagrams and symbols are used to alert you to danger.

Some of the most commonly seen warning signs are shown below:

Commonly seen warning signs
Kangaroos may be crossing ahead for the next 5 kms

Country driving

When driving in rural areas, be extremely careful of:

  • Potholes and rough surfaces
  • Soft or broken road edges
  • Single lane bridges
  • Road surfaces changing without notice
  • Livestock or wildlife crossing the road
  • Very large trucks (road trains)

Constantly scan to the very limit of forward visibility for dangerous situations and drive at a speed that suits the conditions.