Driver Knowledge Tests

How to drive through a bushfire

If you’re driving through wooded areas on a hot day, you need to know bushfire safety tips.

Don’t start the fire

Don’t park your car on long, dry grass as the heat from the engine or exhaust can start a fire.

Don’t discard cigarettes into the bush.

Take your rubbish away with you – discarded broken bottles can act like a magnifying glass.

Never use a barbecue or other portable fire for cooking, and don’t make camp fires.

Avoid existing fires

Your car will easily outrun a bushfire unless you get too close and are trapped. Check with your local authorities about locations of existing fires.

Make sure you’ve got a good map if you’re heading into an area without GPS coverage. Preferably you also need to know the road surface type so that you don’t turn onto an off-road track in a two-wheel drive vehicle.

Check the fire danger signage. National parks and country towns often have fire danger signage at entry points.

If emergency services personnel tell you not to go somewhere, don’t go there.

Firefighters dampen a fire

Make sure your vehicle is well-maintained and reliable; breaking down in the middle of a bushfire could be deadly.

Carry plenty of water, a first aid kit and some blankets.

If you see or smell smoke, drive away from it.

Be aware of which direction the wind is blowing so that you don’t get trapped.

Don’t feel the temptation to go and have a look at the fire – this is a good way of getting trapped if the wind takes it┬ábehind you.

What to do if you get caught in a fire

If you’ve followed the advice above, it’s unlikely you’ll get caught in a bushfire unless one starts very near your house and there’s only one exit (i.e. through it). If the fire is fast-moving then there’s a chance you can shelter in your car.

If fire surrounds you, fine the barest area you can, away from tall grass and shrubs. If you can find a rocky outcrop, a wall, or steep bank this can help shelter the car.

Turn on your hazard warning lights, wind up all the windows and close all the vents.

Get down under the dashboard and cover yourself with blankets, jackets, the floor mats. It’s very important that you are at least below window level. Woollen blankets work best for shelter.

Don’t exit your vehicle until you’re certain that the blaze has passed and is travelling away from you.

Don’t drive out of the area until you see no more fire and the smoke has cleared.

Make sure you drink enough water to prevent dehydration as it will be hot in your car.

A helicopter battles a fire using a monsoon bucket

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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