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12 March, 2007

Driving in Queensland - Part 1

Like many Brisbane drivers, I moved here from another state. In my early ‘culture shock’ at the curious style of driving here, I obtained a copy of the 'Rules of The Road' to see what it was all about. However, this book is clearly a joke, or some kind of spoof, as it bears no relation to what is really going on out there. But, like all those other suckers, I fell for it!

Since there doesn’t seem to be a serious publication of this type, I decided to observe actual Brisbane drivers in action and deduce for myself what the real rules must be. It has taken a few years to work it out but here are my main conclusions, set out as a guide for other incomers. This is part one of a two-part guide (more tomorrow). We'll start with the basics.

Lane Discipline

Whatever they might mean elsewhere in Australia – or the world for that matter – in Brisbane, solid white lines on the road are intended to be driven across. It is actually mandatory to cross solid white lines as often as you can. When following a road, for example, a certain amount of weaving across the lines on both sides of the lane is required. If the road bends to the left and a solid white line marks a shoulder, the driver must cut across the line, preferably with all four wheels, before returning to the lane once the bend has been negotiated. On a right-hand bend, only two wheels need cross the line.

Switching lanes is compulsory every 500 metres (or every five minutes in slow-moving traffic). To change lanes in Brisbane, the driver must wait until they feel in the mood, then swing out into the other lane, flicking on the appropriate indicator only after the manoeuvre has started. Checking your mirrors, or signalling ahead of the manoeuvre is strictly forbidden.

Changing lanes whilst on a roundabout is strongly encouraged in Brisbane and is considered good style. In fact, the rule is that you should always enter the roundabout in the wrong lane for your exit and then change lanes at your leisure, preferably without signalling.

The only time sudden and arbitrary lane changing in heavy traffic is forbidden, is if you are travelling below the current speed limit in the outside lane of a freeway or motorway. If you find yourself in this situation, you must stay in your lane, no matter what, and start making mobile phone calls to all your friends.

Signalling

Many newcomers to Brisbane are confused by the rules about signalling. If you have been taught that signalling is to let other road users know what you intend to do well before you do it, you might find the switch to ‘just too late’ signalling a little difficult. Essentially, the rule is this: Signalling on Brisbane roads is strictly forbidden except during a manoeuvre when you may signal as a warning to other road users to slam on their brakes and get out of your way. Also known as ‘why bother’ signalling, the practiced driver can keep the number of times their indicator flashes to just once or twice as they execute a right-hand turn or change lanes. For those of us new to the practice, it is best to remember these simple rules: never signal before you brake and, when in doubt, don’t signal at all.

It should be obvious from this that, if your vehicle is stationary, you must not signal for any reason. So, standing at a junction, waiting for the lights to change, you must cancel your indicator if for some odd reason it happens to be on. Similarly, on pulling away from the kerb, you may not signal until the vehicle is safely in motion.

The rules about signalling on roundabouts are particularly complicated. The fundamental rule is: always signal right, no matter where you are going. However, if there is a full moon, or during Hindu religious holidays, you are allowed not to signal at all, or to signal at random. I know this is hard but I have observed that the police have no interest at all in such transgressions, preferring to make their money from speed traps, so do not worry. If you make sure that, as you leave the roundabout, you are either signalling right, or not signalling at all, you should be OK.

So far so good. If you are still alive tomorrow, I will be covering 'Positioning'.

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