9 driving myths in Australia, debunked

Amy Bairstow
Amy Bairstow
9 driving myths in Australia, debunked

Buckle up, because it turns out some of the ‘driving tips’ we’ve been told our whole lives might not be as true as we thought. So is it actually OK to snack while driving? And is slower always better? Let’s clear up some of Australia’s most common driving myths.

We’re no legal eagles, and this article is not intended as legal advice. Be sure to check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory for up-to-date laws.

Myth #1: Putting your feet on the dash is no big deal

It can be tempting to put your feet up when you’re a passenger relaxing on a long road trip. But while there’s no explicit road rule in Australia against having your feet on the dash, it’s definitely not the wisest move. A crash could end up sending knees and feet where they’re really not designed to go and lead to some pretty life-changing hip damage. Just check out this simulation to see if it’s a comfortable experience for the ol’ crash test dummy.

Feet on the floor suddenly sounds a lot more relaxing!

Myth #2: There’s a law against eating behind the wheel

45% of polled Aussie drivers said they’ve eaten behind the wheel - so were they breaking the rules of the road? Once more, while there’s no specific law against eating while driving, there are various laws around Australia about driving while distracted or driving without proper vehicle control.

Research from Queensland found that eating a sandwich could have about the same distracting effect as composing text messages while driving. Little wonder that when a Perth driver was snapped eating from a bowl of cereal in 2018, they copped a fine and three demerit points. So: snack wisely!

Myth #3: It’s OK to overtake a funeral procession

You come up behind a slooow-moving procession of cars following a hearse. What’s your next step?

This one could depend on which part of Australia you’re in. Funeral processions have the right-of-way in several states and territories including NSW, Victoria, the ACT and Queensland, and it’s against the law to interfere with or interrupt this type of procession.

Funeral processions have become less frequent in recent years. But if you do happen to encounter one, the most respectful (and possibly lawful) thing to do is to slow down and stay behind.

Myth #4: Driving slowly is always safe

Staying under the speed limit is obviously a good thing. But is there such a thing as too slow? Regulation 125 of the Australian Road Rules says drivers mustn’t unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian by driving abnormally slowly. The example given is driving 20 km/hr in a 80 km/hr zone without good reason. That good reason part is key, so don’t let this stop you from slowing down if road conditions require it.

Myth #5: It’s illegal to drive with your interior light on

Plenty of kids have been told this over the years when a beloved toy goes missing in the car. As it turns out, it’s not actually a direct offence in Australia to drive with your interior light on at night. However - it can still be distracting and could potentially land you in hot water through careless driving. As with the above myths about driving, common sense counts for a lot on this one too.

Myth #6: Taking a nap in your car is fine

This myth can be a bit murky. Let’s say you’re driving and decide to pull over and have a quick nap. While there’s no federal law in Australia against doing this, there may still be local by-laws that prohibit it.

And if you sleep in your car after having a few drinks, this can get more complicated still. It’s possible you could get in trouble if it’s deemed you intended to drive the vehicle. That being said, this isn’t a reason to drive home drunk! Of course the safest (and frankly, comfiest) choice could be to treat yourself to a lush hotel stay, or simply get a lift home.

Myth #7: It’s illegal to wearing headphones while driving

Here’s yet another driving activity that’s technically not illegal, but it probably still isn’t a great idea. Headphones could stop you from hearing ambulance or police sirens, or warning honks if someone pulls out unexpectedly. And headphone use can go hand-in-hand with fiddling on a phone, which is obviously not an option for drivers. So whether you’re into true crime podcasts or embarrassing lyrics, just make sure you maintain proper control over your car and can always hear your surroundings for safe driving.

Myth #8: It’s illegal for P platers to use cruise control

This is a common driving myth for L and P platers. However, using cruise control is acceptable as long as the car is being driven safely. It’s really up to the learner driver (and their instructor, for L platers) to ensure any cruise control use is carried out in a safe and responsible way.

Learner drivers do have some other rules to keep in mind, of course. There are strict rules against L and P platers using phones and devices in some parts of Australia, including the use of hands-free devices. There are also speed limits and the zero-alcohol limit. So, be sure to brush up on the driving rules if you’re a newbie to driving.

Myth #9: Driving a second-hand car is second best

This driving myth is bunkum for so many reasons. First: you can find brilliant pre-loved cars for sale, including those that are near-new and have very low kilometres. Second: there are plenty of luxury pre-owned cars without the immediate depreciation that often comes with buying new. Lexus or Jaguar, anyone? And third: saving money on your vehicle purchase is simply smart. Heck, driving second-hand is even good enough for billionaires like Chuck Feeney.

If you’re looking for second-hand cars in Sydney Carma is a great place to start, with thorough pre-listing checks and a 7-day return window with no questions asked. Find your next car with us now, or use our CarMatch tool to get a personalised recommendation today.

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