How driving rules in Australia vary from state to state

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From double demerit points to different tailgating distances, Australia’s driving laws differ from state to state.

Motorists need to stay clued up as some of these laws have only the slightest difference between them.

For example, in one state U-turns at traffic lights are permitted whilst in the others it’s completely banned unless told otherwise.

Different driving laws across the states:

Double demerit points in peak times

Drivers in New South Wales and Western Australia can receive double the amount of points for committing driving offences during peak times like holiday periods. This is to encourage drivers to take extra care when there are considerably more cars on the road.

Double demerit points also exist in Queensland all year round. If a driver commits more than one speeding offence from a particular category within a 12 month time period they will receive double the amount of points. This rule also applies to seatbelt offences.


Across the states it’s illegal to make a U-turn at traffic lights and drivers are only able to do so when there is a sign allowing it. The only state that has a different rule is Victoria.

In Victoria, the opposite applies and Aussie drivers are actually allowed to take a u-turn unless there is a sign that says otherwise.


In Queensland the driving rules state that any alcohol in vehicles must be unopened and away from not only the driver, but all occupants in the car. However in states New South Wales and Victoria, alcohol can be opened and consumed by the passengers in the car.

Alcohol consumption within the car premise
Alcohol consumption within the car premise. Source: Canva
Leaving windows open

Generally, leaving a car window open is against the law, however this differs ever so slightly across Australia’s states.

In Queensland and Victoria if an occupant is more than 3 metres away from the car it is deemed as unattended and therefore windows should not be open more than 5cm.

Tailgating distances

This is another one of Australia’s laws that changes slightly depending on what state you’re in.

Aussie drivers in Queensland and Victoria are expected to keep a two second gap between the car in front of them.

In New South Wales the gap is slightly bigger at three seconds.

Snoozing in the car

In Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia it’s not illegal to sleep in your car and in Queensland you are only permitted to sleep in a car if you are on a camping site.

However in Victoria it is illegal to sleep in the front of the car whilst intoxicated even if there is no intention of driving the vehicle whilst under the influence.

Whichever state you are driving in it is always important to stay educated on the rules of the road to ensure you stay out of trouble and keep yourself and others safe.

Source: StressFreeCarRental.com

READ ALSO: Eye-tracking technology could help make driving safer

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