Night driving in the outback

by Sagar
(Auckland, NZ)

I have just come back from my big outback trip for 14 days (well, I call it big as we managed to see QLD, NT and WA in 2 weeks!!) and wanted to share my experience on night driving... Yes- night driving in the outback is doable!

We arrived Darwin on a cold Friday night at around 7 pm and by the time we got our car rental sorted out at the airport it was around 8:30. We had no intention of staying in Darwin, so we thought we could just bum around in the airport and hit the road the next morning to Katherine. But the girls in our group (!!!) were adamant about having a proper bed to sleep on and so we started ringing a few places for accommodation that night.

Unfortunately because of the V8 car race happening that weekend all places were booked out. So we decided to ring a few places outside Darwin and we found one at Adelaide River (can't remember the name of the place) but we were told that not to drive all the way from Darwin at this time of night cos of the roos.

However we wanted to risk it!! So we started off on this long highway, pitch dark and passed a few road trains... We did see some kangaroos on the side but none of them jumped onto the road - thank god! But we decided to do something smart (we thought it was!) - FOLLOW A ROAD TRAIN!! This is so that the roo would hit the road train first and not our car, as our vehicle did not have roo bars! So we pulled over and after a few minutes, a road train passed us and then we started following him, we were literally stalking him!!!

We reached Adelaide River but then we decided we might as well follow this road train all night - who knows he might be heading to Katherine! We kept the driver awake by playing loud music in the car, singing songs and also made sure that we followed the road train closely. Finally, we arrived Katherine, safe and sound, just after midnight.

What an amazing way it was to spend a Friday night! So as far as night driving is concerned, I would suggest do it only if you really, really have to. And if you do, follow a road train and make sure your driver is wide awake and alert! It was indeed a risky situation we put ourselves in and managed to drive all that distance without hitting a roo.

Comments for Night driving in the outback

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by: B.

Sounds like a fun night, but also sounds like you were very lucky!

For others reading this, while the theory of following a road train may sound good and may reduce the risk somewhat, it's no guarantee. Roos jump right into the side of road trains (really, they do), in between trailers and they jump in between the truck and you. They are not the smartest animals in the world, unfortunately.

Glad you got to Katherine ok and seem to have had a great time all over!

Not a good idea
by: Kevin

You were very lucky indeed. As a long term NT driver I have seen a number of bad accidents this way. First you were concerned about roos, when it is the cattle, donkeys and horses that can be the real problem.

A road train hitting any of these generally run over and spit them out behind them, you would never stop in time.

Cattle on the road at night always seem to be in the middle of the road just around a bend and almost always facing away from you, this means you don't even get a lucky break of headlights on eyes to spot them and by the time a tired driver reacts is often too late.

The trip from Darwin to Katherine is such a short one, and normally the worst area is between Pine Creek and Katherine. I am very experienced and still have hit roos, cattle, donkeys as well as the usual culprits. I will not drive at night unless a must, I would rather live to enjoy the outback than become a statistic of it.

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