Planning an Aussie road trip for the holidays? Some of Australia’s highways and byways are so dangerous that car hire companies will not allow you to drive on them. Our roads are famous across the globe for being long, dangerous and packed with hazards such as wandering marsupials, giant road trains, extreme temperatures and communication black holes. Comparethemarket.com.au reveals Australia’s riskiest road trips with a warning that you should check your car cover before you visit these incident hot-spots.
Abigail Koch, spokesperson for comparethemarket.com.au, says, “Most comprehensive insurance policies will cover you if you take the family car on a road trip. However, if you plan on hiring a car to venture off-road or up a mountain, make sure you’re covered for flood, extreme weather events, and damage. Apart from the safety considerations, the last thing you want is to find you’re not fully covered if you have an accident.”
Seven of Australia’s most dangerous road trips
- Bruce Highway: UK company Driving Experiences includes Queensland’s Bruce Highway on a list of the world’s 22 deadliest roads because of dangerous overtaking and the long distances between towns. An Australian Automobile Association (AAA) 2012 study revealed that the road, which runs 1,652 kilometres from Brisbane to Cairns, accounted for 50 per cent of Queensland’s casualty crashes and 61 per cent of road deaths from 2005 to 2009.
The Takeaway: Abigail says, “Motorists suffer fatigue when they travel long distances and many get frustrated by long stretches of road with no overtaking lanes. This combination of tiredness, speed and impatience leads to accidents. Frequent stops and splitting the journey into several sections is essential on dangerous highways like this.”
- Snow-Go areas: If you’re planning to enjoy the last of the ski season, hiring a car to drive to Jindabyne, NSW or Bright in Victoria between June to September 30 is a no-no for some car hire companies. Others will insist you buy extra Snow Cover, but will not allow you to claim for damages to a car made by chains or ski equipment.
The Takeaway: Consider leaving the car below the snow line and taking ski tubes to the snow fields. If you do encounter snow when driving in The Snowy Mountains, you’ll need to hire or buy snow chains and learn how to attach these to your tyres. Abigail says, “Chains help your car grip the road, but do not add traction for braking. Remember this and drive slowly, giving yourself plenty of time to come to a stop.”
- Island Paradise? Islands are not popular with car hire companies, and many will not allow you on the Gove Peninsula or any island off the coast of Australia including Kangaroo, Bruny, Fraser and Magnetic Island, Groote Eylandt or the Tiwis. Other hire companies are averse to their cars travelling over water without permission. Even with a car hire company okay to take the ferry, you could have to pay for any damage to the car while it is being transported.
The Takeaway: Abigail says, “Crossing any body of water has its risks and you need to be sure you’ve checked weather forecasts, safety records of ferry companies, and your own car’s ability to deal with the terrain when you reach your island destination. Fraser Island, for example, has very few bitumen roads and is not suitable for the average family sedan. Do your homework to avoid disappointment.”
- Outback Queensland: Want to explore the wild, wonderful outback around Carpentaria? Beware that some car hire companies don’t want you to drive there, forbidding passage past Normantown on Highway No.1 towards Carpentaria. Highway No.27 is no-go zone beyond Chillagoe and Cooktown and is of out of bounds for most car hire companies who don’t want you to travel north of Cape Tribulation on the coastal road.
The Takeaway: “These areas are extremely remote with long distances between towns and little or no phone signal coverage in many places,” Abigail says. “Disaster can strike if you do break down. If you must travel these roads, take 3-4 litres of water, detailed maps, two spare tyres and a good store of snacks. Book accommodation and give your hosts approximate arrival times. If you break down, stay with the vehicle as a car is easier to spot than a person in the event of a search.”
- Jim Jim Falls, Northern Territory: Venturing into Kakadu National Park to soak up Australia’s pristine wilderness is forbidden by most car hire companies even in a 4WD with extra unsealed road insurance cover. The road is prone to flooding at certain times of the year, and is dangerous because of crocodiles and croc-traps.
The Takeaway: Abigail says, “Put your trust in a tour operator who knows the lie of the land and potential hazards. Driving in a national park sounds like fun until you get bogged in soft sand and are stuck for hours in the heat of the day.”
- Any Northern Territory outback road after dark: Some car hire companies specify that your car journey cannot be outside “any town or city limits between sunset and sunrise” in the Northern Territory.
The Takeaway: “Driving at dawn, dusk and during the night is dangerous in remote areas because of animals crossing roads. In the Territory, you might see kangaroos, emus, and camels – all large animals you don’t want to hit at speed, for their sake or yours,” Abigail says.
- WA’s dodgy half-dozen: A number of WA roads are absolute no-go areas for some hire car companies – Gibb River Road, Cape Leveque Road, Windjana Gorge, the Cardabia – Ningaloo Road and the access road from the Great Northern Highway to the Bungle Bungles.
The Takeaway: Abigail says, “This is tour operator territory. If you’re not ‘outback savvy’, it’s best to leave the driving to the experts and sit back and enjoy the beautiful Australian landscape without the worry of damaging your car or getting stranded in the wilderness.”