Outback driving
When planning a route through isolated outback areas, make sure you carry plenty of water (at least 5 litres of water per person per day) and adequate food and fuel supplies. Advise someone of your route, destination and expected arrival time. If you have a breakdown do not leave the vehicle under any circumstances.

As many roads throughout Western Australia are unfenced, wildlife can be a hazard to drivers, particularly around dawn and dusk. Road trains (i.e. large trucks towing up to three trailers) can be over 50 metres long and 2.5 metres wide so extra care should be taken when overtaking. Allow for at least one kilometre of clear road ahead.

Dust on unsealed country roads can obscure vision. It is advisable to stop and wait for the dust to settle.

Overtaking other vehicles, especially long trucks or other caravans, must be done with extreme caution. Not only is the acceleration considerably reduced, but due to the extra length a greater distance has to be covered before it is possible to move back into the left hand lane. Remember to check the mirrors before pulling out.

Being overtaken
By constantly monitoring the rear vision mirrors, a faster travelling vehicle can be readily spotted. If road and traffic conditions permit, slow down and move as far to the left as possible.

The greater the difference in speeds of the two vehicles, and the further they are apart while passing, the safer the situation becomes. When the other vehicle starts to pass, apply some power to the towing vehicle. There is less chance of sway occurring if the caravan is being pulled rather than it pushing on to the car. In other words, do not brake or allow the outfit to be on the over-run.

When due to road conditions traffic builds up behind you, periodically move off the road to allow other motorists to pass safely.

Going downhill
Always slow down and change to a lower gear before actually reaching the downhill section of the road. This is important if the hill is a steep one. By adopting this procedure, the need for heavy braking while going downhill is reduced. Excessive speeds or sudden braking while on a downhill stretch could create an unstable condition and result in uncontrollable caravan sway.

Driving techniques
Newcomers to caravanning are sometimes concerned with the prospect of manoeuvring a car and caravan combination.

The problems that are sometimes encountered may be due to:

  • An incompatible car and  caravan combination
  • Incorrect loading
  • Lack of proper towing equipment
  • Towing equipment not adjusted correctly
  • Not familiar with the correct techniques

Once these points have been sorted, towing a caravan or camper trailer need not be any more difficult than driving a car by itself.

There are several instances where a different technique may be beneficial. These are:

Moving Off
With a trailer in tow the acceleration rate of a vehicle is drastically reduced. If the tow vehicle has a manual transmission, it is usually necessary to stay a little longer in each gear before changing up. With vehicles that have an automatic transmission, it is a good idea to use the selector lever manually to control the gear changes, particularly when going up hill.

Due to the extra length and weight, fast speeds are not recommended. In some states the speed limits are lower when a caravan is in tow. Never drive too close behind other vehicles as it will take longer to stop than when the car is by itself. Leave at least 60 metres between you and the other vehicle unless actually overtaking. This allows other traffic to pass your vehicle safely.

For further information please visit the Road Safety Commission website.

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