Road signs you’ve never seen before, rules you’ve never even heard of, and crossings with bird names — Sydney roads can get a bit confusing to outsiders. Ignorance is no excuse, so prepare yourself with a bit of knowledge.
Love them or hate them, Sydney’s roads are peppered with them. Roundabouts are meant to ease traffic and prevent fatal accidents, and they seem to be doing their job. However, roundabouts are still on top when it comes to road accidents, although they’re mostly minor rear-end collisions. Most of these accidents occur when drivers hesitate and suddenly stop before merging lanes. Harden your resolve, learn to trust other drivers, learn the proper way to merge lanes, and respect other people’s right of way. Your chances of getting into an accident are higher if you hesitate. Just remember to slow down at every roundabout, even if you don’t see any visible vehicles. Smaller suburban roundabouts often have more serious accidents as drivers forgo slowing down.
Sydney encourages carpooling with dedicated transit lanes and parking spaces. A T2 transit lane requires one additional passenger aside from the driver, and a T3 transit lane requires two other passengers, although some roads are restricted only at certain hours. The city encourages drivers to carpool with friends, officemates, or even strangers through various carpooling apps. Motorcycles and bicycles can use transit lanes without restrictions, regardless of the number of passengers.
Today, Ford Mustangs and Porsche 911s are not street legal in New South Wales. Any car with loud exhaust or engine noises will get a citation. Of course, all it takes is a little noise control and some modifications, and you can be driving whatever car you want in the streets. Blaring radios and unusual or loud horns can also get you into trouble.
American, Canadian, and British drivers might be surprised that the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Sydney is 0.05. The lower BAC limit (compared to 0.08 in the three countries mentioned) means just a couple of beers can put you over the limit — even fewer than that if you’re a woman with a slight build. Of course, as long as you don’t give officers a reason to suspect you’re intoxicated — like swerving or ignoring road signs — they can’t stop you without probable cause.
Pedestrian, Pelican, Puffin, and Toucan Crossings
No matter the various names, there are only two types of crossings: the zebra and the ones on traffic lights. White zebra-like stripes mark pedestrian crossings on the road. Pedestrians have the right of way and can cross at any time. If you see a diagonal line on the road, it means you are approaching a pedestrian crossing and should reduce speed. Pelican, Puffin, and Toucan crossings are just different names for traffic light-controlled crossings. Of course, you still need to slow down just in case an errant pedestrian took too much time to cross the road.
Sydney roads take a bit of getting used to, but knowing what to watch out for can sometimes be enough to get out of trouble.