DRIVING IN IRELAND

When driving in Ireland, whether on an urban street, a motorway or a country road, you will encounter various types of traffic signs. These signs will provide information on regulations and restrictions, will draw attention to potential hazards and will notify motorists of directions, destinations and places of interest. Many of these signs, signals and road markings that you will encounter on your trip may appear similar to those found in Europe and North America but it’s important to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of local laws, rules, regulations, customs and practices. Driving on strange roads in a new country can be quite daunting especially if you’re feeling nervous. However, in getting familiar and comfortable with Ireland’s traffic signs system drivers are less likely to make mistakes, resulting in each journey being safer, less stressful and, above all, more enjoyable.

Roads in Ireland are festooned with traffic signs. You may not be aware that there are actually eight types of signs in the traffic signs system.

Traffic signs, signals and road markings are divided into three basic categories: signs that must be obeyed, signs that give warnings and signs that give information

REGULATORY SIGNS

These signs are divided into several groups:

  • upright post signs
  • road markings
  • traffic signals

 

Upright post signs can come in various shapes:

  • circular, octagonal, triangular or rectangular

 

And generally come in two formats:

  • a white background with a red border and black symbols, letters or numbers
  • blue background with white symbols or letters

These signs imply a prohibitory or mandatory traffic regulation. They indicate what you “must” or “must not” do as a road user in accordance with road traffic law. All road users must, at all times, obey these signs.

 

ROAD MARKINGS

Road surface markings can be defined as lines, patterns, symbols and words and are designed to inform, control, guide and warn all road users on regulations, restrictions, procedures and hazards. Currently, there are over sixty road surface markings in the traffic signs system.

 

TRAFFIC SIGNALS

Traffic signals guide, warn and regulate the flow and orderly movement of vehicular traffic, of pedestrians and of cyclists. Everybody is probably familiar with the different lights and symbols on traffic signals but here’s a quick reminder.

Traffic signals in Ireland have a three-phase sequence which changes in a set cycle:

  • RED
  • GREEN
  • AMBER
  • RED

Note: Various types of pedestrian and cycle crossings have a different colour sequence to those used at normal traffic signals.

When approaching a junction or crossing, watch out for the following:

  • advanced stop lines
  • solid green filter arrows
  • flashing amber filter arrows
  • static regulatory signs
  • flashing amber beacons or signals

 

Special traffic signals

In some locations, special signals are used to control traffic at opening or swing bridges or at other special sites such as level crossings or fire stations.

They may be either:

  • normal traffic signals or
  • double flashing red signals

 

School crossings

A pair of alternating amber flashing signals will warn traffic of a school crossing point ahead. In some busy locations electronic speed limit signs may also be present.

 

WARNING SIGNS

These signs are divided into two groups:

  • permanent signs
  • temporary signs

Permanent warning signs are diamond or rectangular shaped, featuring a black border with black symbols or text on a yellow background. They provide advance warning of particular hazards ahead to all road users.

Temporary warning signs are commonly seen at roadworks and are generally diamond or rectangular shaped, featuring a black border with black symbols or text on an orange background. They are provided to warn, instruct and guide road users safely through or around work sites. At present, there are over a 150 permanent and temporary warning symbols displayed on Irish traffic signs.

INFORMATION SIGNS

As the name suggests, these signs give information about location, direction and distance.

Information signs are generally divided into three groups:

  • motorway
  • all-purpose roads
  • tourist information 

Motorway signs generally have a blue background with white letters, numbers or symbols. Signs may be found overhead or at the side of the road. Currently, there are over sixty different types of signs and symbols on an Irish motorway.

Roads other than motorways are known as all-purpose roads. These are classified as national primary roads, national secondary roads, regional and local roads. Direction signs on national roads are designated by the letter “N” and have a green background with yellow route numbers and white lettering.

Direction signs on regional and local roads are designated by the letters “R” and “L” and have a white background with black route numbers and lettering. When travelling on narrow and winding rural roads pay special attention to warning signs as you may encounter:

 

  • dangerous corners and bends
  • bumps and hollows
  • sharp depressions
  • agricultural traffic
  • pedestrians and cyclists
  • livestock and wildlife crossing

TOURIST INFORMATION SIGNS

Tourist information signs are provided for guidance to sites of public recreation or cultural interest and have a brown background with white text and symbols. They are generally stand-alone signs but, in some situations, brown panels may be incorporated into other direction signs. Symbols are often used to indicate the type of attraction, facility or service available. Where the full name and symbol have been shown on advance direction signs, subsequent signs at junctions further along the route may only show the corresponding symbol. Currently, there are over 75 tourist information symbols displayed on Irish traffic signs.

PARKING SIGNS

Parking signs can be divided into two groups:

  • on-street
  • off-street 

On-street parking

On-street parking in cities and towns in Ireland normally has a pay & display or a disc parking scheme in operation. Signs are normally adjacent to the carriageway and they indicate the type of parking that is in place, the times and days on which it operates and the duration of parking time allowed. In busy cities and towns parking restriction signs, road markings and information plates may be present.

 

Off-street parking

Signs that indicate off-street parking facilities, such as car parks, generally have a white background with black text and a blue and white “P” symbol. Direction signs for off-street parking are usually static but electronic signs may be provided in some locations.

VARIABLE MESSAGE SIGNS

A variable message sign (VMS) is an electronic traffic sign that is usually located on various sections of motorway or dual carriageway and positioned either overhead or at the side of the road. Information can be relayed in real time and can warn motorists of events such as traffic conditions and journey times, incidents and lane closures, roadworks and alternative routes, road conditions and weather reports. Always pay attention to variable message signs and follow any instructions or advice that may be given.

Driving in Ireland is relatively straightforward but there are a few laws and rules that you need to consider.

INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENCE

  • Holders of UK, US, Canadian, Australian and all EU member state licences are NOT required to supply an International Driving Permit.
  • International Driving Permits, where required, MUST BE accompanied by the original domestic licence.
  • DVLA announced that, as of June 8th 2015, the UK paper part of the driving licence is no longer valid. Irish car rental companies require all UK licence holders to present a “check code” before the rental car can be released. This must be printed and presented within 21 days of pickup date. https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence

RENTING A CAR

  • In order to rent a car in Ireland a person must hold a full, valid (in date), unendorsed driving licence for at least 2 years.
  • Car rental companies have an age policy; check before booking.
  • When hiring a car in Ireland it is advisable to hire a small car; they are easier to handle and to park.
  • If planning long trips pick a diesel model.
  • Check the vehicle for any scratches, dents, etc, before leaving the depot. Use the camera on your phone to keep a record of any damage done by the previous renter. It may come in handy!
  • Always carry proof of your vehicle rental agreement.
  • Before leaving the rental company site, make sure all equipment is present in the vehicle, such as:
    • spare wheel
    • wheel changing kit
    • breakdown warning triangle
    • hi-vis jacket
    • vehicle manual
  • When returning the vehicle to the depot make sure it has a full tank. This is cheaper than having to pay office refuel rates.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

  • Irish law requires that drivers be in possession of their driving licence at all times.
  • All vehicle occupants are required to wear seat belts at all times.
  • Helmets must be worn at all times by those riding motorcycles.
  • Use of hand-held mobile/cell phone while driving is strictly prohibited. Turn your phone/cell off or put on silent until you safely reach your destination.
  • All vehicles must be insured and taxed and must display an NCT/MOT cert or equivalent if applicable.
  • NEVER EVER DRINK AND DRIVE.

ROADS IN IRELAND

Roads in Ireland are generally of a high standard and are classified as: 

  • National Primary Routes:

Motorways, dual-carriageways and single carriageway roads with hard shoulders. 

  • National Secondary Routes:

Single carriageway roads generally with NO hard shoulders.

  • Regional Roads:

Single carriageway roads, the majority of which are narrow and winding.

  • Local Roads:

Local roads vary from wide urban streets to very narrow rural roads. Some rural roads can be narrower than 4 metres, can be the width of a car in some cases and can be void of any road markings.

 

DRIVING TIPS

  • All vehicles in Ireland are right-hand drive and traffic travels on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Switching from left-hand to right-hand drive:
  • Adapting to driving on the left may feel strange at first but after a while you will get the hang of it.
  • Be familiar with the primary and secondary controls before you drive.
  • Find a quiet car park and do a little practice before going on the road.
  • Put a note on the dashboard or steering wheel to remind yourself to KEEP LEFT.
  • When on the road, get into habit of using your mirrors before making any manoeuvres.
  • Always check the right exterior mirror and your blind spot before overtaking.
  • Don’t drive for long periods, take plenty of rests and take care when merging back into traffic.
  • Drive slower than you normally would.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • If bringing a left-hand drive vehicle to Ireland drive with extreme care, especially when overtaking, as your vision will be severely reduced.
  • Speed limits and distances are posted in kilometres.
  • Always yield to traffic on your right, especially at roundabouts, and always turn left on entering a roundabout.
  • If driving in Dublin City or suburbs pay attention to tramway crossing points and road markings.
  • When using roads with barrier tolls make sure to carry plenty of change as debit/credit cards are not accepted. EURO ONLY.
  • Specific traffic restrictions and regulations apply when using an Irish motorway.
  • On some Irish motorways you might encounter complex junctions. Pay attention to signs and road markings.
  • Avoid ‘motorway monotony or ‘highway hypnosis’ by regularly switching your focus of attention.
  • On single carriageway roads with hard shoulders it is local custom for HGV’s and other slow-moving traffic to pull in to allow traffic to pass.
  • In rural areas a red flag by the side of the road usually indicates that agricultural machinery are exiting from fields adjacent to the carriageway.
  • When approached by an emergency service vehicle from behind, always slow down gradually and pull into the left-hand side of the road. Never jump a RED traffic signal, enter a bus lane or yellow box junction when letting an emergency service vehicle pass.
  • Off the main highway, country roads can be narrow, winding and bumpy.
  • It’s advisable not to drive at night if you are any way nervous as a lot of rural roads are poorly lit. Start your journey early so that you can arrive at your destination before nightfall.
  • Beware of pedestrians and cyclists, especially in urban areas.
  • When driving in Irish-speaking areas (An Ghaeltacht), be aware that traffic signs are in Irish (Gaelic/Gaeilge) only.
  • Remember: always drive with due care and attention.
  • Note: The information provided above is not a legal document and should not be treated as such.

TERMINOLOGY

  • Petrol station = Gas station (buying fuel)
  • Fuel consumption = Gas mileage
  • Number plate = Licence plate
  • Bonnet = Hood
  • Boot = Trunk
  • Windscreen = Windshield
  • Indicator = Turn signal
  • Hazard warning lights = Emergency signals
  • Heated rear window = Defogger
  • Manual gearbox = Stick shift
  • Accelerator = Gas pedal
  • Handbrake = Parking brake
  • Single carriageway = Undivided highway
  • Duel carriageway = Divided highway
  • Motorway = Freeway
  • Orbital route = Beltway
  • Toll road = Turnpike
  • Road markings = Pavement markings
  • Traffic signal = Stop light
  • Roundabout = Circle or traffic circle
  • Crossroads = Four-way
  • Pedestrian crossing = Crosswalk
  • Level crossing = Railway crossing
  • Bend = Curve
  • Car park = Parking lot
  • Multi – storey car park = Parking garage
  • Footpath = Sidewalk

SECURITY

  • Never leave a vehicle unlocked.
  • Don’t leave valuable documents, handbags, wallets, phones or other attractive items inside an unattended vehicle.
  • When parking a vehicle overnight always leave it in a well-lit area.
  • Always remove valuables when parking a vehicle overnight.

RECOGNITION

  • If you are a holder of a BLUE BADGE be sure to have it in your possession. Cities and towns in Ireland provide special parking places for vehicles displaying these badges.
  • AA UK members are covered for AA breakdown assistance in Ireland. Remember to take your membership card with you.

EMERGENCY SERVICES

  • Fire Brigade, Gardaí (Irish police), Ambulance, Lifeboats, Coast, Mountain and Cave Rescue: dial 999 or 112.
  • Make sure you have plenty of battery power in your mobile/cell if outdoors.
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