Caravanning and RVing in Australia

Lifesaving passing advice for 'vanners

A very concerned outback-based driver sent me the following email and his advice could be the difference between life and death for someone towing a caravan on outback roads

Hello Lionel,

This is not a question but some advice for your clients. I have been driving in Western Queensland for the past 15 years as an employee of a large organisation. I travel from Mt Isa to Cunnamulla, from Torrens Creek to Birdsville on all the roads in between.

I have noticed, particularly during the last two years, an increasing lack of knowledge on behalf of RV drivers and caravans in general, on the correct procedure to use when passing oncoming traffic on single lane bitumen roads.

These are by the most dangerous for larger vehicles. One thing you learn out here very quickly, whether you like it or not, is that might is right.

Always give the road to the larger vehicle. The mighty triple road train comes first, then the B double, then the flat top truck, then the Caravans & RV's, then me in my ute. Using this principle I have survived with nary a scare let alone an accident. Until now!

(1) On a recent trip from Boulia to Winton I was involved in three events, one of which was very nearly a huge accident. In the first instance I approached a caravan being towed by a Sahara at a distance of 1/2 mile or so. I slowed down to 60k and moved my left hand wheels off the bitumen to the verge and slowly approached, allowing the van to use the remaining bitumen without getting his left hand wheels of the shoulder. The "gentleman" from Victoria, or so his plates indicated, activated his left turning indicator some 200 yards from me and pulled off the bitumen and came to a stop. With a wildly gesticulating arm pointing over the roof of the Sahara and flashing his lights. Well, out here that means he might need help so I stopped beside him, after checking the road was clear both ways, and began to ask if he required help. I copped the best serve I have ever had, and was accused of disrespecting his kind offer for me to take the road, as he called it, and proceed. I presume he intended me to continue on the bitumen, while he pulled over for me, in a ute!. Remember this bloke is towing a fairly large van, probably around 2.5 to 3 tons with a drop-off of some two metres on his left. I was so taken aback, he had driven off before I collected my wits to reply. By the way he didn't answer channel 40 either.

(2) Continuing on I came to the Diamantina Channels just west of Middleton. These channels have a good dual carriage of bitumen but have only single lane bridges with a give way sign facing west bound traffic, I don't know why they face east they just do. On approaching the last crossing before the
Middleton Hotel I began to move to the centre of the road to pass over the one lane bridge. A Falcon towing a small van was approaching from the east and had the give way sign against him. I noticed he was also in the middle of the road and appeared not to have noticed the give way signs. I slowed to assess the situation as I still had enough room to stop. This goose flashed his lights at me and accelerated onto the bridge, taking my right of way. I pulled over to the side and stopped as he went past. I indicated to him to stop, which he did. I approached him and asked if he had seen the give way sign. "What sign?". "That sign" I pointed, "You don't have give way signs in the bush you take turns when crossing these bridges" was his reply. I asked what would have happened if I had been a B Triple loaded with sheep. He would be dead that's what. He realized his folly by apologising. He was from Victoria too.

(3) 50k out of Winton and I am feeling less wary now, silly me. Here comes a large blue RV with a B triple, laden with cattle, a couple of hundred yards behind him. I can see the road train and again apply the same procedure as always, slow to 60k, move to the verge and allow the RV and the train to pass. Guess what, the RV slows and pulls of to the left to allow me the road. What he does not know because he never checked his rear view mirror, is the road train is now virtually on top of him with me about to pass the same point. I took instant evasive action and moved down onto the table drain allowing the road train to take my side of the road to pass this idiot. How the B triple did not clip the back of the RV I will never know.

Safely past, channel 40 was full of thanks from the road train driver with some very caustic advice for the RV driver needless to say he did not acknowledge either. Oh guess where the RV was registered, yep Victoria.

Out of curiosity I have spoken to some tourists in the parks here in town and asked them how they would pass oncoming vehicles on single lane bitumen roads, without fail all answered the same. Pull over to the left stop and let the on coming vehicle pass. I asked from whence they had received this information. The reply was "from caravan clubs, other van drivers and magazines"

Can someone please give advice to prospective tourists in RV's and vans on the correct way to drive on single lane bitumen roads. They might get home alive, but I doubt it after what I have just seen.



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