Night driving in the Outback

by Sagar
(Auckland, NZ)

How safe is it to drive around the outback during the night ?
We are covering a huge distance (from Alice Springs to Perth) in 10 days stopping at major attractions e.g. Ayers Rock, Katherine and we can do this only if we continue driving at night as well.

I have heard that we could encounter a lot of animals on the way after sunset and there is a possibility of them damaging the campervan. Should we consider driving at very low speed?

Re: Night driving in the Outback

Hi Sagar,
There is not much I can add. Yes, you are likely to encounter animals on the road, and yes, you could damage the campervan.

Lower speed will lower the risk, but it will not eliminate it.

If you absolutely can't avoid night drives I suggest you do a couple of things:

  • As you already said, drive slowly, and make sure that the driver is wide awake and alert. Do not drive if you are sleepy. You have no chance of seeing that bull and reacting in time.

  • Do not drive around sunrise and sunset. That is the time where the risk is highest. Just pull up for breakfast or dinner instead.

  • At the roadhouses, at any chance you get to talk to locals or to people driving the opposite direction, ask about the stretch of road ahead.

    Some areas are worse than others. Near water is bad. Cattle move around and can appear anywhere, but other people on the road may be able to warn you ahead.

    I can't tell you where the high risk areas are over there, but I could tell you exactly where you would need to be careful here where I live, so talk to people!

That's your best bet to minimise the risk. You are still taking a risk.

Here's one of my experiences:

I once drove back from Darwin to Kununurra at night. It got dark before Katherine. I was fine for about another 100 km, but once I hit the Vic River Valley I had to jump on the breaks, and I mean jump, every five minutes.

I nearly hit a donkey, a couple of cows, a horse and a freaking huge pig! I was doing 50, then 30, then I got to a creek and there were just wallabies everywhere. I crawled through them doing about 20 and two managed to turn around at the last second and commit suicide under my wheels anyway.

After that I gave up. I pulled over and pulled the swag of the back and slept. It just wasn't worth continuing.

It's always when people push too hard, because they want to cover too much distance in not enough time, that accidents happen.

Avoid night driving if you can. Be careful if you can't.

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