Narrow roads (some with grass down the middle!); tractors, cows & sheep blocking your way and “they drive on the wrong side of the road over here” too. It’s all a lot of fun driving in Ireland!
There can be quite a few challenges for visitors to Ireland setting out on their to drive on our roads for the first time. City and rural driving have their own unique scenarios and there are strict rules to adhere to if you are unfortunate enough to have an accident with another car. To help ease the stress, here are some tips to keep you safe and ensure you have an enjoyable stay in the country.
City driving is where everyone is in rush, but no one is going anywhere fast. Traffic is mostly slow moving at best and can be at crawling pace during peak hours. You need to accept the fact that there is absolutely no point in being in a hurry. Surrender yourself to the pace of traffic and you’ll have a less stressful experience.
Get to know your route beforehand by driving it in the evening at a quitter time. Note where you have to change lanes and familiarise yourself with the road signs and what they mean.
Quite often, people can get lost down one-way systems in towns. If this happens, don’t panic, find somewhere to pull in, park safely and work your route out calmly. If you’re still unsure, ask a local business or Gardaí for directions.
Probably the most important skill you’ll need for city driving is concentration. With buses, vans and lorries all vying for space, your view is very restricted. Expect cars, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians engrossed in their smartphones to suddenly appear in front of you. Constantly check all your mirrors and beware car doors opening suddenly.
While driving in the country is vastly different to the city, it does bring its own set of unique challenges like farm machinery, livestock and narrow winding roads with tight bends.
Driving on a winding narrow country road can be difficult. There is quite a bit of gear changing, braking and steering as you navigate around the bends. Some of these roads may have a speed limit of 80 km per hour, but if you attempt to drive at that speed on these unfamiliar twists and turns, you could quickly end up in a ditch or a hedge. Driving at night can be even more tricky, so drive at a pace that you are comfortable and feel safe with.
On National or N roads, the speed limit can be up to 100 km per hour. Occasionally where there are hard shoulders, drivers will move towards them and slow to let following traffic pass without having to cross into the oncoming lane. This a courtesy and not a rule of the road.
It can be quite frustrating for some country drivers when, all of a sudden, their momentum is slowed right down by a tractor in front. This is to be expected though, so don’t let your frustrations get the better of you. The farmer or tractor driver will usually pull in as soon as he/she finds a space to let you pass, often they’ll wave for you to overtake when they can see that the road ahead is clear. You should also be cautious when you approach a tractor coming the other way as it could be towing a low wide load that may cross into your lane.
Another common obstacle to be expected is livestock. Farmers often drive herds of cows or sheep along roads to bring them to another field or shed. Be patient and wait till the farmer clears them off the road for you before proceeding slowly. You should also be aware of farm animals roaming free. Slow down and pass them with great care and attention.
It’s important to remember that how you drive can affect other drivers, so always be mindful of the other cars on the road. Don’t tailgate. This is where you drive too close to the car in front of you. Not only are you not allowing enough braking distance, but it’s also extremely distracting for the driver in front.
Always signal your intent. How can other drivers anticipate what you’re going to do if you don’t signal?
Let others merge. When other cars are trying to merge, move over into the outside lane to give them room.
Don’t hog the outside lane. The outside lane on a motorway or duel-carriageway is used for overtaking and is not meant for cruising in.
Monitor your high beams. Don’t use your high beams when there is other traffic on the road as they can cause temporary blindness in other drivers. Unfortunately, not all drivers show due care and consideration to their fellow motorists and their use of the horn can be somewhat overzealous. A common mishap for those starting out on their own is stalling at traffic lights. If this happens to you, ignore the car horns, take a deep breath and go through your starting procedure. Check it is safe to proceed, before driving off calmly.
Accidents and what to do
If you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident, there are certain things you are required to do by law, and other things you should do for safety and to protect yourself from financial loss. First things first, stop the vehicle – if you are in a dangerous location or obstructing traffic, move the car only so far that it is in a safer location.
When you are in a safe location and at a standstill, turn off the ignition and breathe. A running car can be a safety hazard, turning it off reduces the risk of a fire. Try to remain calm and take a moment for several deep breaths, this will help you better handle the situation. Next, you will need to get out of the car and mark the scene. Flares, cones or reflective markers will make the accident area more visible for other drivers. Check for injuries on yourself and on any other drivers or passengers who may be involved.
Depending on the severity of the accident and if there are any injuries, you may need to call the Gardaí, who will then alert other emergency services if required. If you are involved in a more minor crash with no injuries, exchange car insurance details with the other driver and take photos on your phone of the accident site as these will help to explain what happened at a later date.
Drive safely and calmly, and you should avoid any mishaps. Happy driving, on and off the golf course!
There’s more to driving than the basics and Ready for the Real Road, from Liberty Insurance, is here to make sure you’re ready for any challenges that you might meet. For more information, visit their Safety Centre and for a quick and easy car insurance quote, visit Liberty Insurance.