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The Australian Overtake… and why we shouldn’t be proud of it

There’s an overtaking manoeuvre unique to Australia, and it’s nothing to be proud of.

SO THERE YOU ARE, cruising at 100km/h exactly on the freeway, in the middle of three lanes. Ahead is another driver doing 98km/h, and eventually you draw close enough for an overtake.

In order to pass you might pull out when you’re say five car lengths behind, and maybe pull in when you’re five ahead. Call it ten all up, or about 50m. 

That overtake at a speed difference of 2km/h means you’ll need 90 seconds to get past, over which you’ll travel 2.5km. And that’s assuming you maintain an even 2km/h overtake rate. The car being overtaken might speed up just a fraction, or you may slow down a touch. Then you’re in overtaking limbo…unable to complete the overtake, but unwilling to drop back and start again. You certainly don’t want to increase speed to say 103km/h as you run the risk of a fine. Instead, you’re side by side with the other car for the rest of eternity, a dual-lane rolling blockage. 

This scenario does not make for safe, efficient or stress-free driving, but it is the Australian Overtake and it is a problem. 

Aside from the frustration of both drivers involved in the overtake, when someone else comes up behind you they have to wait a long, long time before they can get past, which is why passing on the left – undertaking – happens. Undertakes are not safe, but they’re very common in Australia because of the Australian Overtake. The driver behind could also slow down and wait, and some will wag sanctimonious fingers, saying that’s what should happen.

Back in reality – if someone is travelling at say 102km/h they aren’t likely to want to drop to 97 or lower just because there’s a blockage ahead, and that’s a simple fact of human nature. And even if they did, then their slowing down will cause the car behind to slow down a bit more, then the car behind that a bit more again, and that’s exactly how traffic jams build up over time.

Now let’s say this trio of cars – two in the Australian Overtake, and one behind – happen upon another car which is doing say 95km/h in the middle lane. The original car being overtaken either has to speed up to get around the slower car, or drop their speed further, or change lanes. None of these are good options.

All of these problems can be sheeted home to the fact that in Australia, we have 95% of drivers trying to drive between 96 and 103km/h, so overtaking takes a long time, frustrations run high and freeway blockages are frequent.

Is there a better way you may wonder? Well, yes there is and we need only look at Europe. I know how that works because I lived there for years and drove about 100,000km a year around the place. European freeway speed limits are typically 120 or 130km/h, and people cruise between 100 and 150km/h.  Yes, above and below the limit. European freeways are giant proof that if speed limit tolerances are increased not everyone will take advantage. And Europe has a greater volume of cars than we do. Australians think they know traffic jams, but that’s like Europeans thinking they understand heat. 

This is how proper freeway driving works: you’re cruising at 120, passing a bunch of cars doing 110. At at 10km/h overtake rate it’s only 18 seconds to overtake and 600m even at 120km/h. A faster car from behind appears, doing 140.  In Australia, you ignore them and turn on the hate, mentally composing a ‘every other driver on the planet is a tool’ Facebook post.  In Europe, you wait for a gap in the slower lane, nip in and let the faster car by.  In return, the faster car scoots through, overtaking in a matter of seconds, allowing you to come back out into your original lane without you needing to slow down at all, before you catch the car in front.  It’s a maneuver of beauty and I love it no matter which side of it I’m on.  But in Australia you can’t do it as the relative speeds aren’t great enough.

The only time I’ve ever under-taken a car is in Australia, because it was either that or sit at 85 in a 100 zone. Never, ever in all those kilometres of driving across Europe and the UK did I even feel the need to under-take let alone actually do it. Surely that says something about our freeway culture?

Another example. In Europe, if someone really wants to crack on they drive in the fast lane with their left indicator on (Europe, remember).  This is a signal to say please let me through fast, and people do let them through.  In return, that driver then really has to overtake quickly because they’ve advertised their intent, and they do.  It works.  Nobody’s ego is broken, and everyone moves that bit quicker. Now in Australia, what’s going to happen if a car sits behind you with the right indicator on?  It’d be melted by the hating.

The Australian Overtake is frustrating, inefficient and potentially dangerous. The solution is simple. A freeway where people can drive a range of speeds is more efficient and less frustrating than one where everyone is trying to drive at exactly the same speed. Just take a drive around Europe’s freeways and you’ll see for yourself.

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  • Justin

    The beauty of the 130km/h speed limits in the NT are not so much that you get to drive faster as most people travel well below that. It is the fact that you can overtake quicker and you can concentrate more on the road as there is no fear of being booked for going a couple of k’s over the limit. I am not sure it would work in Victoria as it would be seen as “sit on 130 or else I’m gonna road rage ya”.

    • Dean

      I agree, and plenty of people including myself in the NT still sit on 100 cos it’s a comfy speed and better fuel economy. Or for towing etc.

  • Dean

    THANK YOU!

  • trackdaze

    The outside indicator does work here about half the time. My version only engages when there is a gap sufficient for those infront to safely move over without having to adjust their speed which is about the same gap for a straifing undertake manouvere coincidently.

  • Monty

    My favourite is the overtaking lane on the country road. Driver in front going 80 in 100 Zone. As soon as he gets to overtaking lane he speeds up. Once back to single lane, he goes back to 80. On country roads I flatten it when I overtake and hope that there are no cops around. So far so good and I’m still alive to prove that speed does not kill. Again, the pathetic lack of driver training has a lot to do with it.

    • NZFiend

      This is known as the “NEW ZEALAND LACK OF OVERTAKING PROCEDURE”.
      It has been explained scientifically by a psychiatrist friend of mine…

      The apparently annoyingly bad driver (doing 90km/h in hundred zone) feels SAFER on a wider road, so speeds up to 100kmh. Then slows back down to annoying speed once “safe” road is back to one lane.

  • Aussie motorist

    When I took a holiday trip to L.A California, I was dreading the idea of driving a hire car. But I ended up doing that. It was great – no problems at all. I had never driven on the other side of the road before in a left hand drive car. No problem, the other drivers were patient, polite, the traffic was fine. In fact it was so easy and good, there were no “Close ones” or fine-able offences or anything. I had a great hire car – a Chev Impala V6. The problem with Australia is we have a political correctness government that is anti-motorist, anti development and has absolutely no idea about road and transport infrastructure. Everyone on the road is snitchy, frustrated and some of them are so messed up in the head they need a psychiatric assessment !

  • Steve

    The problem with people having to overtake in Australia, is that most of the “90 in a 100 zone” crowd are so oblivious to their surroundings that it’s impossible for them to know there’s another car coming up behind them to move over for.
    Hence the “keep left unless overtaking” signs in 80 or above zones. Then there’s the problem that they just ignore those also.

  • Andrew

    What about the left lane (when there are three lanes)? I lived in the UK for 6 years and drove about 50,000 miles per year on motorways in Yorkshire. Trucks and other heavy vehicles, including anything towing a trailer was not allowed in the right lane. If you were driving alone on a clear road you moved to the left lane, not the middle lane. I find this to be the major cause of congestion on the M4 (Syd) which I travel on daily. Some roads in Syd have no trucks in the right signs, so this must work. Keep left unless overtaking should actually mean what it says. i.e. no driving in the middle lane if the left is clear. This does require a more mature approach to freeway driving, which Australian’s lost years ago. Get the rules right, communicate them and then hopefully behavior will change. Oh, yes the variable speed limit was the major factor in better overtaking. UK had speed limit of 70MPH, if you travelled at 80MPH you would not get booked. And you do get some doing 100MPH. London was a different story I think – average speed cameras everywhere. Andrew

    • With you 100% Steve. Lived in the UK too and yes 80mph was ok so long as you weren’t being dangerous. Basically with traffic flowing between 60 and 85mph everyone could get past and overtake properly.

      It also meant that when you were done for speeding, then you were DONE for speeding and everyone knew you’d done wrong.

  • nexory

    The difference to Europe are the fines. If I’m caught doing 5km/h over the limit in most European countries I get an maybe a 10 Euro fine. But most likely I won’t get one at all because the police in Europe gives you the benefit of the doubt (that is inaccurate measuring instruments on their part) for the first 3 or 4 km/h you do over the limit. In Australia, I’d cough up a whooping A$ 360.

    • Agreed, that’s a big part of the root cause.

      • Scotty Weir

        The governments of all persuasions in Australia are like drug addicts. They are addicted to the money they receive from fining people for driving 2 or 3 kmh over the limit. Absolutely nothing to do with saving lives or safety.

  • Andrew

    Keep Left Unless Overtaking. Left is Left, not middle.
    If your “cruising at 100km/h exactly on the freeway, in the middle of three lanes” you’re breaking this road rule:
    http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/…/road-rules/overtaking.html
    I’ve driven in Europe for 15 years and in Australia for 15 years. Europe is better because they drive in the left (normal driving) lane unless overtaking. If you don’t move over (right) in Germany, you will be berated by every driver, as everyone knows the rules. In Australia people are not taught them and they are not enforced. There is no such thing as a “fast” lane, just overtaking lane(s).

    • Jacob

      That might be the case in NSW, but until we have one common set of road rules for the whole country dont assume that what is true for you is true for everyone.

      https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/road/left/

      In the QLD rules is specifically says that keep left means you musn’t be in the right hand lane. It doesn’t specify that you have to be in the left lane.

      • Kris von Pomperron

        I don’t believe that it would necessarily have to be a law for people to follow it. When ideas make sense, I don’t see what can get in the way of practicality and morality.
        I think Andrew has it right, and driver’s need to be shown early how much more effective “keep COMPLETELY left unless overtaking” can make our roads.

    • Riggah

      I used to drive regularly on the F3 between Sydney and the Central Coast and where it was 3 lanes I’d cruise along at the speed limit in the left lane, rarely having to change lanes because everyone else was tailgating each other and playing dodgems in the middle and right-hand lanes. The Australian aversion to driving in the left lane meant that it felt like I had my own personal strip of road!

  • Daniel Whiddon

    This article falls apart so quickly.
    “You certainly don’t want to increase speed to say 103km/h as you run the risk of a fine. Instead, you’re side by side with the other car for the rest of eternity, a dual-lane rolling blockage. ”
    So the assumption is set that the speed limit is 100 km/h
    “when someone else comes up behind you they have to wait a long, long time before they can get past,”
    Why should we worry about a third person in this scenario when in the far right lane the driver is going the speed limit any one going faster than this is breaking the law that you have indicated is extremely bad even by 3 km/h

    • “why should we worry about a third person” – well, that attitude is a big part of the problem.

      You can move the speeds down or up. Make it 90/95 with someone behind at 100. The problem remains the same.

      If someone wishes to break the speed limit by 2-4km/h, and they are held up by people doing the speed limit, then you have a problem. It’s not for you or other road users to police the roads, particularly when doing so may lead to frustration and therefore increase danger levels for all.

      • Daniel Whiddon

        I think you have it backwards there… If someone wishes to break the speed limit by 2-4km/h, and they are held up by people doing the speed limit, then THEY have a problem.

        Just because you want to break the law doesn’t mean that others should just so you aren’t inconvenienced. If someone is going to get frustrated because they can’t break the law maybe they shouldn’t be driving.

        • We’re going to need to agree to disagree. While never condoning breaking laws, every road user should act consideratly to others and sitting in the right lane blocking other users is not considerate and therefore dangerous. Vigilante driving never ends well, and you don’t know why the person behind wants to go faster. Could be your speedo is out, or theirs is, or many other reasons.

          • Daniel Whiddon

            I can agree with that Robert. But in fairness I believe the majority affected by this “Australian Overtake” are those that want to go faster than the speed limit.

          • I agree Daniel. However, “faster” is often 2-3km/h. While breaking the law is breaking the law, there is a difference between 2-3 over and 20-30 over, and that’s even reflected in the penalties. Comes back to too many people trying to drive at exactly the same speed in exactly the same space.

          • Greg

            I work my speed off the GPS. Even though I’m going much faster than most people, no cameras or cops bother me. Its so much easier and courteous to drive in traffic cause i can literally pick an ample gap ahead and plan a move. Not just stick the indicator on and turn the wheel into the car next to me blindly, assuming you’ll get out of the way.

        • Driver

          You are the reason this article exists

        • Really Daniel?

          By sitting in the right hand lane, you’re breaking the law… so you don’t really have a moral leg to stand on here.

        • Cam

          If you are reading your speedometer at 100km/h and thinking you’re doing the speed limit and everyone else can get stuffed, then you could have absolutely no idea what’s going on around you or even in your own vehicle.

          Most speedometers have a buffer of around 2-4km/h at an indicated 100km/h (meaning you’re going slower than you think you are). If this is the case, the person behind you is raging because their speedometer doesn’t have that buffer, or they’re using a GPS to gauge their speed (they are not speeding!).

          If the person behind you wants to drive a serious margin above the speed limit, then yes they have a problem and you are making that problem yours by getting in their way. You risk enraging someone who already has a problem and potentially contributing to an accident.

          The safest thing to do is be aware of your surroundings at all times, be cognisant of potential dangers to yourself and to others, and show some chivalry instead of waging a war that you started in your own mind.

          The real reason you stay put in the right hand lane, blocking traffic and sticking to your speedometer reading, is not because you are justified and beyond reproach. It is because you can’t handle the idea of someone else making gains that you aren’t.

          Or to put it simply, don’t be a self centered jerk.

        • DJR96

          Legalities aside, if someone is behind they more than likely want to overtake you. It’s a simple courtesy to your fellow road user to allow them.
          Besides, regardless of how much faster they may wish to go or any other dangerous practice, letting them go by means they can go and have that crash further up the road without you being part of it. Ultimately you are safer for it. That’s just being sensible. That is why it is in the road rules and you should comply. Being selfish by unnecessarily holding other drivers up will definitely increase the probability of you being involved in an incident. Not smart.

      • steve

        The attitude of well I’m doing the speed limit so they can get stuffed is bullbshit! Get out of the way you have no idea why he is in a rush and its non of your business, besides that the passing lane needs to be free for that ambulance you can’t see ten cars back that you are blocking out

  • YouAreNotASpecialSnowflake

    I’m very very happy somebody is expressing some reasoned sense in addressing speed laws in Australia. Keep up the good work.

  • Mike Waghorne

    I have had my drivers licence since 1979, In those day learners was for 3 months and P plates was for 12 months and any fine meant you lost your licence for 1 to 3 months and you had to start over again in NSW. Over the years many people have protested about the loss of loves ones on our roads, The politician’s cop lots of letters and complaints and now we have the same problem with high speed police chases. The plain simple facts are once we use to give way to the right and keep left unless overtaking. The licence rule book once stated that when your over taking you were required to do so in quick manner, which use to mean speed up to pass the vehicle and pull back in front at the required speed, this was especially back in those days because not a lot of highways were dual lane, which meant you were on the wrong side of the road.

    Times have change a great deal, The road toll in each state is a political issue now and a powerful one at that, it has enabled the laws to use revenue raising as the governments deterrent method. Suing people at a drop of hat did help either as the government was usually the fall guy. The other problem is the politician’s don’t care so long as the revenue keeps coming. They are constantly looking for ways to keep raising revenue whilst using the road tolls as method to keep it increasing revenue.

    Whilst I’m all for safer roads and better driving conditions and infrastructure, we have a big massive problem now. It’s not hard to work out why 3 or 4 lanes of traffic on a freeway come to a stand still, the very reason is in the article as posted. People have become more focus on distractions like watching there speedometer, playing with phone etc., or driving slower and in high majority of cases by at least 20km/h than the posted speed limit and all it does is frustrate drivers on continued basis and pushing the patience limits of many drivers, thus causing a dangerous situation that leads to risk taking.

    People merging onto a freeway are another cause for the stopping of traffic not to mention those who are in the wrong lanes to exist a multi lane road do exactly the same. Once you were encourage to be doing the correct speed limit when merging into traffic for on and off ramps but people try to merge in many cases 40 klm/h under the posted speed limit which that person is bringing traffic to a halt on a multilane lane road by why of a domino effect which makes it more dangerous than someone exceeding the speed limit by 10 km/h.

    Yes we have gradually become subjected to money for coffers as an object, which is resulting in poor driving skills.

    In relation to fatigue, once upon a time is was illegal to pullover a rest on the side of the road unless it was designated rest stop or parking bay, now we recognise fatigue as a major issued towards deaths on the road. Again speed signs use to represent speed zones not speed limits, we had open speed zones, now we have speed limits everywhere.

    Kids were taught to walk to the designated road crossing, look to the right, then left , then to right again before crossing the road, now day’s people just walk out in front of traffic thinking they have right of way. Hence now people keep protesting to lower speed limits in school zones and common local roads. Same goes for police cars, If the police put there lights on, you pulled over to the left and stopped., got out of the vehicle & greeted the wallopers. Nowadays they speed up for the thrill of a speed chase and wonder why they end up in the news or in jail for killing someone and causing another major traffic flow issue.

    Then we have the police blocking the road or placing detours about whilst they do there job in making a federal case out everything to try a beat the lawyers in court cases.

    If you were involved in an accident or broken down you were required to move the vehicle off to left hand side of the road, if possible, people would stop and help push the vehicle off the road, now days they leave the vehicle in the middle of the road or lane blocking everyone’s right to travel at a safe speed, people hardly stop to help, then we have all the rubber necks who act like they have never seen accident or a broken vehicle or the police pulling someone over, everyone has to have a good gorkee instead of watching the road in front of them. Somehow this has become the days entertainment.

    Kids use to walk to school or catch the bus, now days many parents drive their kids to school, nothing wrong with that except is totally unnecessary.

    This all adds up to major traffic issues and bad driving skills, so who’s fault is it that we all ended up with a major lack of understanding for overtaking and undertaking, well that is everyone’s fault for not keeping it simple and basic and respectful. IMHO

    • SgtCarlMc

      Unfortunately in todays’ climate, walking to school is a hazard when the Govt. releases paedophiles into the community without telling the parents. Just last week a murderer handed himself in to the police and told them he kidnapped a girl on her way to school, raped and strangled her 18 yrs ago.

      • Phil Shenton

        We can’t live our lives like that. There are bad people in all walks of life. We can’t allow our kids to grow up scared of everyone. Again, they need education, stranger danger, walk in groups, safety homes etc.. I have no problem with my 7 and 8 year olds walking the 1km home. They stick to the path, they don’t talk to strangers and will (hopefully) run to a nearby house or other person if they feel scared. There are no more bad people today than there were 40 years ago. We just hear about more now through the media and our police are so much better at catching them.. The courts not so good at prosecuting and parole office even worse. But we refuse to be terrorised by ISIS so we should refuse to live in fear of the bad people.

      • Patrick Elliott-Brennan

        What on earth are you talking about “Today’s climate”? You’re seriously talking utter rubbish.
        IN THE PAST paedophiles were rarely identified, rarely arrested, rarely convicted and rarely gaoled as a result.
        TODAY there is a greater chance of them being caught, convicted and gaoled.
        Regardless, none of this has any bearing on:
        1. Children walking to school
        2. How people drive in Australian states and territories.

        • SgtCarlMc

          What part of walking to school is a hazard when the NSW State Govt. releases paedophiles into the community without telling any parent living there. You must be deaf and blind when news reports tell of men stalking kids along the paths offering them to sit in their cars. Then the police start telling the parents to be careful until they catch the retard.

          I can tell your a youngin’ where-as in todays climate, which means in todays present space in time, or whats around you.

      • ray johnson

        for starters stay on topic second thing i agree pedos should not be near schools but parents and students need to learn every school has at least 1 crossing USE IT not in between cars this is where the accidents mostly come from 40km/h is ideal speed for these zones

    • Glenn

      Yes !

  • David O’Donoghue

    Keeping left on the express in south australia sucks, the lane ends.. so everyone has to merge over, if people are overtaking at that point, your fucked, you are getting off the expressway.

  • Steve Bekkers

    unfortunately the roads here in WA are designed such that every body drives at the same speed, the problem is nobody drives at the same speed. Second problem is the Road “safety” council and its pathological fear of speed. This is combined with people who have no idea how to “drive” a car absolutely panicking because if they do 2kmh over the limit they will be a labeled a homicidal maniac. Besides there is no law saying you must keep left unless overtaking.

    • SpawnyWhippet

      Steve, I guess you are one of the problem drivers. There is absolutely is a law in WA about keeping left: http://www.roadrules.rsc.wa.gov.au/road-rules/keeping-left

      • Steve Bekkers

        that’s a bit harsh Sprawnywhippet, I usually keep in the left lane because its often the fastest. You are right on multi lane roads with speed limits over 90kph you must keep left (added to the code in 2009) however I have yet to hear of anybody who has actually been charged with this offense in WA?

  • fuz

    Hats off for you Robert for writing up on this! It is not only the conservative coffers but also vigilante road users contribute to this it seems from the comments. But the comments are constructive for a change…

  • MK74

    Arrived in Australia and travelled daily on the Hume Hwy around Canberra . For the first few weeks couldn’t undestand the reason for the convoys of vehicles traveling together on the highway. Then realised it was the fear of overtaking and getting pinged doing 113 on a perfect motorway, in perfect conditions.

  • mAllo

    A simple solution to the above problem – which it is – is to drive in the left lane and overtake in the right lane. If no vehicles are in the left lane proceeding at a pace faster than that of yours it should be your responsibility to occupy that/the left side lane. This practice will keep the right lane or lanes free for overtaking and emergency vehicles to get through unhindered.
    This principle should be taught during the early stages of driver training and supported by awareness and periods of enforcement to eventually become acceptable and the norm with countless of benefits as a reward – the first being safety.

  • Squeaky_1

    I have no qualms about ‘undertaking’ in the left (supposedly slow) lane. I’ve no time or tolerance for the muppets involved in these 2kmh+ “Aussie Overtaking” nonsenses. I’ll proceed up the left slow lane without a 2nd thought, if it is clear, if there are idiots hogging the left or two left lanes. Sooner I’m clear of gooses like that on a trip the better!

    • You may do that Squeaky, but it’s against the road rules and it’s not safe.

      However, the point is that you shouldn’t ever in be a position where you feel the need to do that.

      • Peter Kakalias

        Robert, it actually is NOT against the law to ‘undertake’. It is only illegal if there are no lines marked and you ‘undertake’ on a single lane.

      • bingomassacre

        Undertaking is illegal – but not considered undertaking if you’re driving on a marked roadway. You can’t be booked for driving along in the left hand lane at the speed limit and someone is in the right hand or middle lane doing 10km/h slower.
        I also don’t understand how it can be considered any less safe than overtaking on the right.

      • Michael Moon

        It is actually NOT against the road rules on parallel lane freeways. Look it up! It is however important to take care and ensure a car in the far lane does not decide to overtake and pull into the same lane.

  • Alan

    Attitude is the biggest problem. That of Police. Not the local constabulary, but the hierarchy. They’re concerned by only one thing – speed, not the way people drive.

    There is a revenue camera I drive through most days on the M3 coming into Brisbane – 100km/hr. It coincides with a fairly busy on-ramp. The relatively orderly traffic on the 3 lane 2km straight suddenly bunches up, brake lights galore, every lane slows to maybe 80 – and never gets back up to speed. Prior to the camera being installed, I had NEVER seen an accident there, other than caused NOT BY SPEED, but by poor ON-RAMP discipline.

    I drive Brisbane to Gold Coast regularly – I put the car on RADAR Cruise in the left lane – the “SLOW” lane, and just drive. That lane regularly is running faster than most of the other 3 lanes, even though we have to slow to allow traffic to join at on-ramps. I guess it means “UnderTaking”, but the lane actually often runs faster.

    There is an on-ramp I join the motorway near my home where it becomes 4 lanes for about 4km. I’m astounded by the drivers who join the motorway and immediately cause mayhem on the motorway by cutting across, not just one, or 2, but often 3 lanes to get to the “FAST” lane. Meanwhile, I stay in the added “SLOW” lane – and get to my exit 2km away much faster.

  • Andrew Chambers

    They forgot to mention that once you catch up to the car in front while you have cruise control on, you pull to the right to overtake and as you reach the drivers door the slow car speeds up and you eventually have to pull back in behind them… then repeat until you finally crack it and blast past them at 140km/h and get a speeding ticket.. No I’m not bitter..

  • Martin Axe

    Unfortunately road policy in Australia is designed and pushed by people like Harold Scruby (who wants to ban motor racing and also wants push bike riders to be limited to 10kmh) and of course the state governments who are now addicted to speed camera revenue and constantly push out the endless propaganda that “speed kills”, if that is the case then how come Germany has a lower fatality rate on the roads than Australia given you can drive at unlimited speeds on many autobahns? If you own a classic or sports car of any type in Australia you are treated like an outlaw of some type by Police, governments want you to consume, consume, consume and by a crappy Hyundai brand new each 3 to 5 years, they hate old cars and the people that love and drive them, I hold little hope Australia’s pathetic add hock road rules and dismal driver training will ever become better.

  • Doug Mullett

    Unfortunately sensible overtaking, especially in Victoria, will result in either a fine and points or loss of licence. The concept of spending less time either on the “wrong side” or in the “overtaking lane” in order to make overtaking safer has been surrendered to “speed kills”.
    To my mind, “speed kills” has led to many being killed at lower speeds.

  • Doug Mullett

    Another problem: in my Commodore, the speedo is accurate. In my Prado, and most other toyotas (in my experience), 100 on the speedo is actually 95. A driver who hasn’t calibrated the speedo may inadvertently be holding up people, thinking that vehicle is travelling at the maximum legal speed when in fact it is not.
    Motorcycle – 8% error! Do I read the speedo to be safe and hold everyone up or travel according to my calibrated speedo?

    • Good point Doug

    • Don O’Brien

      Spot on Doug. The speedo of a car leaving a showroom has a speedo calibrated such that the vehicle travels anywhere from 0% to 15% under the displayed value. Therefore the “I’m doing 100 so I don’t need to move over” drivers could actually be only doing 85km/h. When poor tyre pressure, speedo wear, etc. gets taken into account, most cars will travel well below the displayed speed unless the speedo is regularly calibrated.

      • John

        Tolerance is actually only 0% – 10% UNDER plus 4kph. The display must not display higher than the actual speed, but may display 10%+4kph UNDER the actual road speed.
        Does not explain the reluctance to keep left “unless overtaking” – which only applies to roads where the displayed limit is over 80kph.

    • ray johnson

      this is why i use a mobile gps unit each time i hope in a new vehicle that way i know if i am over or under but i always go for 102 km/h via gps so i am on the tolerence

  • Doug Mullett

    On autobahns: I was in the left lane, overtaking at 185. A Mercedes came up quickly behind and flashed his lights once. I pulled over as soon as I had overtaken, and he went on at about 260 or so. No rage, no temper, just courtesy.

    • That’s what it’s like in Europe all the way. Not here, we’re all trying to drive between 97 and 101km/h.

  • Dave Pearse

    Having driven thousands of kilometres in France earlier this year and last year in the UK I can only agree with this. Australian drivers are so much tied up in their own ego it inhibits safe driving

  • Dee

    I am astounded at where people will pull up just to answer there mobile phone. I have seen people stop on the off roads to answer the phone and cars behind have to overtake the idiots to get off the road they are on. Unbelievable. Also on the highways people pull over onto the side of the road but there car is still partly sitting on the highway to answer the phone. Cars are squeezing pass them at a hundred or a hundred and ten in Tasmania And where are the police ? They are hiding on the town roads waiting to book me for accidentally running over fifty klm’s. Haw can people be so stupid !!!!

    • El Minotoro

      I want to give them all a medal for not driving on the phone though. I wish I lived in your magical homeland

  • Dee

    I did a trip from Tasmania to Victoria and NSW in a car and was so frustrated at the speed limit in these two states You can only do one hundred klm’s. In Tasmania it is 110klm.
    If you have a car that is capable and has all the mod cons in it, you can sit on 120klm or even more then why not especially up the highway to Sydney. If you are capable of driving at this speed then you should be able to do so safely and if you don’t feel capable of driving at these speeds then don’t. Drive to your ability. That should be the road rules. But then where would the government and police force find the money to keep them in there jobs ?????? lol

    • ray johnson

      how about one long month of not booking the speedsters but just the drivers hogging the right lane without moving over when safe to do so i believe you would get more fines than the speedsters

  • Glenn Stewart

    Another annoyance that should be mentions is the variation of speeds along a single stretch of highway.

    Changing speeds on a single stretch from 80 > 90 > 100 > 110 adds to frustration, fatigue and has been statistically shown to cause more fatalities than simply maintaining one speed.

    When the trip from New York to Boston was upgraded, variations in speed were left to the states. At first, these were increased and the combination of larger and divided roads decreased fatalities. Over time though, the states controlled their own speeds, and variation occurred. Road tolls increased almost to pre upgrade amounts.

  • Siobhan Ellis

    One major issue with this. They shouldn’t be in the damn middle lane when there is no-one in the inside lane. This is one of the major reasons for overtaking on the inside. It would help if people actually understood the name soothe lanes. It’s not a fast lane… If you have 3 lanes, there is the normal lane, the over taking lane, and the outside overtaking lane.

  • Matt Sharrett

    So true. Nothing is better or easier than driving on the Autobahn. You just have to do the right thing and keep out of the way of cars going 250 and all is good.

  • Philip ‘pj’ Buchanan

    Perhaps if we had far better driver training and testing, such as that in Germany, we could have increased speed limits and increased courtesy on our roads.

    Until we do, the same garbage that takes place on roads every day across this country will continue to happen. It’s really frustrating.

  • bingomassacre

    The key to solving this problem is driver training. And I mean proper training. Not learning bad habits from parents or learning how to pass a test. Proper driver training. THAT is what differs between people here and those in Europe. Not just changing the speed limits. People already do whatever speed they like around my area. Anywhere between 100 to 130km/h (occasionally more) in a 110km/h zone. This doesn’t stop congestion.
    Congestion is of course caused by people doing the “Australian Overtake” – but this is rarely done when they’re paying attention. They’re usually on autopilot doing 105km/h or just don’t care that they have 20 cars behind them trying to do the speed limit as they slowly pass several more cars doing 100km/h.

    Truck drivers are a good example. You’re all limited to 100km/h and most I see are super happy to jam yourselves into a non existent gap between two cars to overtake another truck doing barely 2km/h slower (usually the car behind you has had to brake because you put the magic indicator on and just moved over).
    And it’s always on a hill. Every damn time. Really convenient on a 2 lane freeway.

    But my absolute favourite are sticky drivers. The ones that are on autopilot doing 95 in a 100 zone, while I have my cruise set to a 100. Suddenly I’m overtaking! Can’t have that! But we have a fork in the road. Should I speed up and zip off before slowing down again later on and repeating the process? Or should I just pace you now that I’ve got someone to lean on instead of looking at my own speed?

    • ray johnson

      1 note agree with most except the truck overtake truck, being that trucks have a lot of torque(nm)(acceleration) but not a lot of power(kw)(sustaining power) you have to keep a lot of momentum so if a truck has to slow down and loses that momentum because that have to sit behind another truck below pace and have to wait for a gap to overtake which may never come i think just a little bit of patience can’t hurt and then once truck moves over well gun it to clear the path for everyone else

      • bingomassacre

        I appreciate your point about the truck torque (understand what you mean, too) – but when the overtake takes some 5-10km to complete, it comes down to blocking a major freeway. At the end of the day, if you’re about to hit a hill then you’re going to be slowing down regardless. Which is exactly what happens, and they need to put 2 + 2 together instead of just pacing the truck next to them until they’re past the incline and creating a gridlock of traffic behind them. It’s unnecessary, illogical and self-absorbed.

  • Brad

    Hooray, finally, someone with some sense. I have said it for years, freeway entry lane 80, next 2 lanes 90 & 100, overtake lane 110. This will also prohibit trucks from the overtaking lane as they are limited to 100. Please start a petition to get this happening asap. Cheers.

  • Mc

    The only question left… Is the licencing procedure the same as in L’s & P’s regarding age and speed limits you know the whole bag? Would that need overhauling aswell?

    Either way quality piece mate true reflection of the moments we suffer every day on our commute.

  • Zoe Van Mill

    I totally agree with you that it works really well and works love to see this in Australia but… I believe it works in Europe because although there are so many more cars, there are less cars per capita and those who bother to have cars, really love driving. In Australia everything is spread out, and the public transport options are more limited, so more people have cars as the only way they get around. Therefore there are more people who aren’t really into driving here, they just don’t think, a lot of drivers here really suck and I’m afraid increasing the speed limit won’t really change that percentage’s awareness or skills

  • Scott Crombie

    This is NOT unique to Australia.
    I’ve lived in the UK for 16 years and it’s exactly the same here, mate.

  • Lachlan Rogers

    I’m an Australian living in Germany, and I absolutely agree with you. In addition, I believe the uniformity of speed on Australian motorways contributes to drowsiness that can cause accidents. It is much easier to stay alert on a road where the speed variation is higher.

  • 40nv

    More than that… why does everyone think, they have to drive in the middle lane on a three lane highway? Keep to the left, and suddenly there are two overtaking lanes. Simple.

    • MattP

      The middle lane is the safest lane, particularly when there is a risk of animals darting out onto the road from the scenery at high speed and without notice. In the middle lane your peripheral vision has more time to see the risk and react in a safe manner. Also, if your cars suffers a tyre blowout (rare nowadays, I admit) then there is also more room to maintain control and carefully move off to the side.

  • Bernadette Harrison

    I once overtook a couple of cars doing below the speed limit on a back road in Melbourne. The road was @ 90k. I ended up doing 110 to overtake, dropped back in to the lane in front of these cars, and immediately dropped back to the speed limit of 90. Little did I know there was a police patrol car hiding in a little culdesac. He had his camera on me, but when he saw me drop back immediately to 90, he didn’t do anything about it all. You have to go over the speed limit to overtake some of these meandering idiots on the road.

  • ajp

    Just curious Robert, this is almost exactly word for word identical to a similar piece from john cadogan on youtube several months ago. Is this a chicken or the egg scenario?

    • Hi there, Robert has written on this topic before, posing a similar argument on a forum several years ago. We’ve looked through John’s YouTube video’s but can’t find the one you’re referring to, can you please provide a link? Thanks Isaac

      • ajp

        Thanks for the sensible treatment, I will try to get my facts straight before I make smart comments from now on 🙂

        As a veteran of thousands of hume hwy Klm’s and having watched that road go from a single lane each way (with a painted line separating 60 MPH each way), to what is now quite a pleasant if not boring dual lane freeway. keep left is a safety rule for the most part, if you suddenly find yourself moving from dual lane freeway to OneLaneEachWay staying on the right lane would put you into the oncoming traffic. so keeping left at all times (unless overtaking) will avoid this.

        Now the hume is all dual lane I like the right lane is 130 when overtaking (within 100m of the object you are overtaking) hume is mostly now 110 but this would upset the average speed timing traps all through NSW. as you could comply with this rule and still be faster on average point to point.

        I don’t think this will ever get though the “Speed-Kills-People-Die-1st-responders- traumatized..” rhetoric.

        I notice that no one publishes deaths per number of Vehicle Klms eg in the US its apparently something like 1 death per 250,000 Miles, (interestingly the tesla driverless cars have driven 350,000 Miles for only one death(and he was an idiot who was doing Sudoku and not overseeing his vehicle) maybe its not the speed but the nut behind the wheel?

    • Hi AJP, we’ve done some digging and we can’t find reference on John Cadogan’s site to the article you’re referencing, but we do have proof that Robert’s article dates back, in essence, to one he penned in 2014. So, that would suggest, yes, the article on PM was born well before JC’s article. Cheers Isaac

      • ajp

        Hi Practical motoring, I think I have found the bit I was referring to above and it was a comment by another user in the discussion of a safe driving tutorial and not from the main text. so I agree my above comment was incorrect and should be removed as I was incorrectly attributing.

        • Thanks for that. We take plagiarism very seriously at Practical Motoring and do all we can to ensure our articles are unique. So you know, the article Robert wrote on PM was first created several years ago when he published a variant of it on a forum. – Isaac

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com