8 Differences in Road Rules by State in Australia

Australian states and territories have separate road rules for motorists in their areas. This doesn’t mean you need to study the road rules of all eight jurisdictions of Australia. Common sense can probably guide you through the most crucial road safety rules, such as wearing a seat belt and not driving too fast.

However, it would be wise to research the road rules of the state or territory you plan to visit before you get there. That way, you don’t have to worry about breaking any rules and dealing with the police.

Let’s examine the top 8 differences in road rules by state and territory in Australia.

1) Alcohol Rules

 What are the rules for possessing an open alcohol container and consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle while driving? Here are the differences in the alcohol rules per state and territory:

 New South Wales

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers are allowed to open and consume an alcoholic beverage.

Victoria

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers are allowed to open and consume an alcoholic beverage.

Queensland

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.

Western Australia

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • Penalties are imposed even if these actions are taken while the vehicle is not moving on a public street.

South Australia 

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers are allowed to open and consume an alcoholic beverage.

Tasmania

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.

Australian Capital Territory

  • The driver cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.
  • The passengers cannot open or consume an alcoholic beverage.

Northern Territory

  • No laws against a driver opening or consuming an alcoholic beverage while driving or stationary
  • No laws against a passenger opening or consuming an alcoholic beverage while driving or stationary
  • The driver must maintain a legal blood alcohol level
  • Cannot consume alcoholic beverages in particular areas of the Top End where it is dry. Strict penalties are imposed on violators.

Cross-Road-Junction-Road-Traffic

2) Cell Phone Rules

Texting or calling someone while driving your vehicle is never a good idea. Here are the specific rules regarding cell phones for drivers in various states and territories:

New South Wales

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Victoria

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Queensland

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Drivers with a Provisional P2 Licence can use a hands-free cell phone while driving
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Western Australia

  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, and utilize GPS map navigation technology whilst in a fixed phone cradle only
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

South Australia

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Drivers with a Provisional P2 Licence can use a hands-free cell phone while driving
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Tasmania

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Australian Capital Territory 

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
  • Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

Northern Territory 

  • No probationary driver or learner driver is allowed to use any kind of cell phone while driving or stationary.
  • Probationary drivers and learner drivers must park their vehicles before using their cell phones.
    Fully licenced drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, receive calls, play music, and utilize GPS map navigation technology.
  • No driver can touch their phone while driving.

3) Sleeping Rules

Some people may get tired and want to sleep in their vehicles for various reasons. If you plan on doing this, make sure you know the car sleeping rules in each state and territory to avoid legal problems.

New South Wales

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.

Victoria

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.
  • Research the by-laws of your local government area because some cities prohibit sleeping and residing in parked vehicles.

Queensland

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is NOT allowed.
  • The only exception is when parking on camping grounds.

Western Australia

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.
  • Parking on reserves and beaches is prohibited.

South Australia 

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.
  • Parking on reserves and beaches is prohibited.

Tasmania

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.
  • Parking on reserves and beaches is prohibited.

Australian Capital Territory 

  • Sleeping or residing in a parked car is allowed if you are not trespassing on the property where you are parked.

Northern Territory

  • No strict laws against sleeping or residing in a car parked in a public place, although the government discourages it.

Driving and using a mobile phone

4) U-Turn Rules

Be careful when you make U-turns because they are not allowed at every intersection in most states.

New South Wales

  • U-turns are not allowed unless an intersection has a posted sign indicating you can make a U-turn there.

Victoria 

  • U-turns are allowed at all intersections and traffic lights.
  • The only exceptions are when a continuous line exists or a posted sign indicating you cannot make a U-turn at the intersection.

Queensland

  • U-turns are not allowed unless an intersection has a posted sign indicating you can make a U-turn there.

Western Australia 

  • U-turns are allowed at all intersections unless a posted sign indicates you cannot make a U-turn there.
  • U-turns are NOT allowed at traffic lights.

South Australia

  • U-turns are not allowed unless an intersection has a posted sign indicating you can make a U-turn there.

Tasmania

  • U-turns are allowed at all intersections unless a posted sign indicates you cannot make a U-turn there.
  • U-turns are NOT allowed at traffic lights.

Australian Capital Territory

  • U-turns are allowed at all intersections unless a posted sign indicates you cannot make a U-turn there.
  • U-turns are NOT allowed at traffic lights.

Northern Territory

  • U-turns are allowed at all intersections unless a posted sign indicates you cannot make a U-turn there.
  • U-turns are NOT allowed at traffic lights.

5) Unattended Car Rules 

You may want to leave your vehicle if you experience a mechanical breakdown or another emergency. Every Australian territory and state government considers an unattended vehicle to be when the motorist is at least three meters or more from their car.

Here are the rules for leaving your vehicle:

New South Wales

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 2 centimeters.

Victoria

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 5 centimeters.

Queensland

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 5 centimeters.

Western Australia

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 2 centimeters.

South Australia

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 2 centimeters.

Tasmania

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap at all.

Australian Capital Territory

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 2 centimeters.

Northern Territory

  • You must remove your car keys, activate the parking brake, and lock the doors if no one over 16 years old is in the vehicle.
  • Keep the car door windows up with no gap greater than 2 centimeters.

WA Police

6) Roundabout Rules 

Roundabouts are round island intersections that can be tough for inexperienced motorists to navigate safely. So make sure you follow the rules carefully:

New South Wales

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers if it is practical.

Victoria

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers if it is practical.

Queensland

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers whether they are moving straight, left, or right.

Western Australia

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers whether they are moving straight, left, or right.

South Australia

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers if it is practical.

Tasmania

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers if it is practical.

Australian Capital Territory

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.

Northern Territory

  • Motorists are required to give way to other vehicles actively inside a roundabout.
  • Motorists must signal a left or right direction if they want to turn in a roundabout.
  • Multi-lane roundabouts require motorists to move their vehicles in the same direction as the arrows on the signs indicate before and during a roundabout situation.
  • Motorists leaving a roundabout must signal to other drivers whether they are moving straight, left, or right.

7) Emergency Vehicle Yielding Rules

When you see an emergency vehicle approaching your direction from behind, you usually must slow down and pull over to let them pass. Each state and territory has specific rules regarding how much you slow down and other actions.

New South Wales

  • Motorists must slow down and not exceed 40 kilometers per hour if the posted speed limit is 80 kilometers or less.
  • Motorists must use their best judgment and slow down to a reasonably safe speed if the posted speed limit is 90 kilometers per hour or more.
  • Change lanes to free a lane for the emergency vehicle on a broader-sized road.
  • Motorists must reduce their speed for any vehicle flashing yellow lights. Tow trucks are the most common vehicles flashing yellow lights.

Victoria

  • If a stationary emergency vehicle is flashing its lights or siren, motorists must reduce speed to 40 kilometers per hour and attempt to pull over if there is enough room.
  • If an emergency vehicle is flashing its lights or siren and moving under 10 kilometers per hour, motorists must reduce speed to 40 kilometers per hour and attempt to pull over if there is enough room.
  • Motorists must reduce speed and attempt to change lanes for any emergency or law enforcement vehicle with red and blue flashing lights or a loud alarm noise.

Western Australia

  • If a stationary emergency vehicle is flashing its lights or siren, motorists must reduce speed to 40 kilometers per hour and attempt to pull over if there is enough room.

South Australia

  • Motorists must slow down and not exceed 25 kilometers per hour if the posted speed limit is 80 kilometers or less.
  • Motorists must use their best judgment and slow down to a reasonably safe speed if the posted speed limit is 90 kilometers per hour or more.
  • Change lanes to free a lane for the emergency vehicle on a broader-sized road.

Tasmania

  • If a stationary emergency vehicle is flashing its lights or siren, motorists must reduce speed to 40 kilometers per hour and attempt to pull over if there is enough room.
  • Motorists must reduce speed and attempt to change lanes for any emergency or law enforcement vehicle with red and blue flashing lights or a loud alarm noise.

Australian Capital Territory

  • If a stationary emergency vehicle is flashing its lights or siren, motorists must reduce speed to 40 kilometers per hour and attempt to pull over if there is enough room.

8) Rules for Leaving Safety Gaps

Various states require you to leave a particular amount of space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. The gap amount is measured in seconds by using a physical object on the side of the road to judge the time. But you are calculating the time it takes for the car in front of you to pass the object.

New South Wales 

  • Motorists are required to leave a two-second gap.

Victoria

  • Motorists are required to leave a two-second gap.

Queensland

  • Motorists are required to leave a three-second gap.

Western Australia 

  • Motorists are required to leave a two-second gap.

South Australia

  • Motorists are required to leave a three-second gap.

Tasmania

  • Motorists are required to leave a two-second gap.

Australian Capital Territory

  • Motorists are required to leave a three-second gap.

Northern Territory

  • Motorists are required to leave a three-second gap.

Conclusion

Now you should have a good idea of the rules of a particular state or territory before arriving there. Follow the rules the best you can to avoid any issues with the law.