Sunday, March 29, 2009

So you want to drive in Ireland...

Driving in Ireland, particularly for this Yank, and particularly when I first arrived here, was - and still is - a real adventure. If you're an American - or if you're from anywhere else that drives on the right side of the road, you'll be delighted to know that driving over here is just a little different. And here's why:

* Yes, Virginia, they Do Drive on the Left Side of the Road
Which screws up everything, especially if you learned to drive in Chicago at the age of 16, and did so on the right hand side. Note the photo above. This is a pic of the interior of a Land Rover Discovery that I owned (I got rid of it 2 years ago, and really glad I did, in that no one wants to buy SUVs anymore). Note the placement of the steering wheel. IT'S ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE. The gear shift is on the LEFT HAND SIDE. Which can make life a little tricky, let me tell you.

* What You Don't Want to Do When Driving in Ireland
Do NOT look up and right, expecting to find the rear view mirror. That's up and left. Do NOT look to the left expecting to find the side mirror. That's on the right hand side. Do NOT reach with your right hand, expecting to find the gear lever. Your hand will crash into the door.

* Negotiating Round-a-Bouts
In Ireland (and elsewhere in Europe), they have developed a traffic tool known as a Round A Bout. This large circle in the middle of the road is supposed to help erst-while drivers make it from A to B with as little difficulty as possible. For Americans, negotiating these things can be a nightmare. First, remember that you're turning LEFT into a round a about, not Right. Turning right can result in assorted mishaps and a quick trip to the hospital. When approaching a round a bout, my advice is this: close eyes, put the peddle to the metal, and pray to the traffic gods for assistance. With any luck, you'll scoot right on through oncoming traffic with narry a scratch. That's what I've been doing, at least, and it still works.

* Transitioning Between Countries
If you travel from Ireland and the US (or other countries) and back again, be prepared to suffer from Drivers' Transition Syndrome. This ailment (which has not been recognised by the World Health Organisation) has the following symptoms: when travelling back home from one country to the other (from Ireland back to America for instance) and having grown used to driving in that other 'foreign' country, be prepared to climb into your car, secure your safety belt, look up - and realise that you're sitting in the passenger seat, not the driver's seat. This is due to the fact that you have momentarily lost your mind, and have become dis-oriented (dis-orientated over here, by the way), and are not quite sure within which your body is currently residing and driving. Also be prepared for assorted stares from nearby passerbye's who are wondering what the hell you are doing.

* To Recover
To recover from this position: nonchalantly polish the passenger's dash board, pretending that you were intending to sit there in the first place. Get out of the car (ignoring the now laughter filled stares of passing people), climb into the REAL driver's seat (confirming that fact by ensuring the steering wheel is now in front of you), start car, and drive away.

By practicing the above a bit, and by following local Irish rules of the road, you too will be able to drive and survive in Ireland. Either that, or rent a donkey and cart. Tom

1 comment:

  1. Horrors!! I think I would opt for the donkey cart, and take the scenic route.