Driving with trams: the Victorian road rules people still don’t know

A tram travelling up Collins Street next to car traffic

Nicola Dowse

Posted September 28, 2022

Trams are a historic and integral part of our transport network, but many people still don’t know the rules for how cars are allowed to navigate around them. 

Victoria is home to the largest tram network in the world, spanning some 250 kilometres with more than 500 trams in operation. This vast network has become an iconic part of Melbourne, but it has also exposed us to unique problems. 

In 2021, the Department of Transport reports that 2,632 roadside incidents or near-misses occurred with trams, and is calling for drivers to look out for community with its Tram Stops You Stop campaign. 

It’s just one of many rules that all Melbourne drivers should know when it comes to trams. Here are five of the most-commonly misunderstood road rules for drivers about navigating trams.  

The 5 rules everyone should know about trams 

Can I overtake a tram?  

When it comes to driving with trams, there’s one golden rule: when a tram stops, you stop. 

Melbourne’s double track tram network features roadside stops where passengers alight directly onto the road. For this reason, it’s important to stop at the rear of the tram whenever it stops to let passengers safely disembark. 

It could be your child, neighbour or grandparent exiting the vehicle, so make sure you show passengers the same care and courtesy you’d show them. Once all passengers have alighted and the tram doors have closed, you can continue past the tram at no more than 10kph. Fines of $462 apply for failing to comply.  

You can legally overtake a tram in motion, but you must not impede the tram and give way at all times. 


Driving Around Trams - Victorian Road Rules | RACV

When do I have to give way to trams?

Depending on the vehicle class, a tram can weigh up to 50 tonnes. For comparison, a rhino only weighs about 1.5 tonnes – so if you’d give way to a rhino, you should also give way to a tram.   

You should always give way to trams and move out of their path wherever possible. This includes at roundabouts - even if you think you would normally have right of way. 

Drivers must not drive into the path of an approaching tram if it’s in a lane marked by broken or continuous yellow lines. If you’re already in this lane when you see a tram approaching, you should move out of the lane as soon as is safe to do so.  

Spot the difference: tramways, tram lanes, and tram tracks

Can you drive on tram tracks? Yes… but there are a few caveats and it’s an easily misunderstood road rule. The first thing to know is the difference between tramways, tram lanes and roads that simply have tram tracks. 

Tramways: can be identified either by overhead signs that say, ‘Tram Only’ or feature a tram icon and the word ‘ONLY’. They also can be marked by dividing strips (kerbing) or unbroken double yellow lines. You cannot drive on tramways unless you need to avoid an obstacle.

Tram lanes: are marked by a single unbroken yellow line or overhead ‘Tram Lane’ signs. Some roads are always tram lanes, while others become tram lanes during certain days and times. You can only drive on tram lanes to avoid obstacles, or to make a right-hand turn. 

If turning, you should only move onto the tracks up to 50 metres before the turnoff. The Department of Transport states that 70 per cent of tram crashes happen when a car turns onto tram tracks, so be sure to check in both directions before turning. 

Drivers can otherwise drive on tram tracks, but be sure to give way to trams at all times.


A tram driving down a busy road packed with cars

Tramways, tram lanes and roads with tram tracks all have different restrictions placed on motorists. Photo: Matt Harvey.

When do I need to make a hook turn? 

Like trams, hook turns are an iconic part of Melbourne’s transport infrastructure. They exist as a means to improve traffic flow in busy intersections frequented by trams.  

The good news is that hook turn intersections are marked with signage that says, “Right Turn from Left Only”.  

When you see these signs, a right turn can only be completed by approaching the intersection from the left lane, entering the intersection and waiting in the marked area (or on the left-side of the intersection if there are no markings). 

Complete your turn once the lights on the road you are entering change to green. 

Can I drive over raised roads at tram stops? 

Some roadside tram stops feature kerbside lanes that have been slightly raised to create a flat, level surface from the sidewalk to the tram. 

These are called Easy Access Stops (EAS) and are designed to make Melbourne’s tram network more accessible, especially for passengers who use mobility aids, are vision impaired, or are travelling with a pram.  

Vehicles can drive over these raised stops but must obey the same rules as at a regular roadside stop – that is, when the tram stops you stop.  

If you’re waiting for a tram, you should wait on the sidewalk, not on the raised lane.  

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