Whether you are an Irish native or a welcome visitor, it's important to know how to negotiate Ireland's roads. To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, we've put together a handy guide to driving in Ireland.
General Speed Limits and Road Signs
The general speed limit in Ireland is 50 km/h in urban areas (approx. 30 mph). Regional roads should be driven at 80km/h, national roads 100km/h, and motorways 120km/h.
Road signs play a pivotal role in ensuring your road safety. It's vital that you are aware of what each sign means and how to follow its instructions correctly. It's not just speed and directional signs that need to be understood, but rather the multitude of signs that line Irish roads.
Take some time to familiarise yourself with Ireland's road signs, otherwise you may find yourself missing your motorway exit or getting lost.
Drive on the Left
In Ireland, people must drive on the left side of the road. This may seem obvious but many drivers forget one of the main rules of driving in a new country; driving on the correct side of the road.
Seatbelts must be worn at all times by the driver and all passengers while driving in Ireland. Not wearing a seatbelt is considered an offence and can result in fines and penalties.
Make sure you and your passengers buckle up before each journey.
Roundabouts are common in Ireland. The purpose of a roundabout is to reduce delays and ensure traffic flows smoothly. They also minimise the risk of collisions, while they reduce a car's emissions when compared to a car waiting at a set of traffic lights.
Negotiating roundabouts can be tricky but once you know the rules they're pretty straight forward. Think of a four exit roundabout with two lanes. Imagine the roundabout is cut in half vertically to the position of your car. If you are taking an exit on the left half of the roundabout then approach from the left lane and stay in the left lane until you exit. If you are exiting on the right half of the roundabout approach from the right lane and stay in the left lane until you exit.
Above all else, always give way to your right-hand side.
When making a left turn
Irish Roundabout Guide Left Turn
When making a right turn
Irish Roundabout Guide Left Turn
Non residents do not require an Irish drivers licence to drive in Ireland. Alternatively, the licence of your country is accepted as long as you adhere to the Irish rules of the road.
Car insurance is compulsory in Ireland. Be sure to get the details from your rental company if you're not already insured in Ireland.
If you are permanently entering the country, then you will need to arrange an insurance policy on your vehicle. This may be car insurance, motorcycle insurance, or commercial van insurance.
Alcohol & Penalties
Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal, and the laws are strictly enforced. Depending on how much alcohol you have had, the penalty can range from 1 to 6 years of driving disqualification or potential imprisonment.
Driving after taking drugs or alcohol increases the probability of a crash, which could result in injuries to both yourself and others. The existing limits for fully licensed drivers are 50 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
It is also an offence to refuse to provide a sample of blood, urine or breath for evidential purposes. These offences can also result in disqualification of up to 6 years.
Almost 1 in 3 crash deaths in Ireland are alcohol related. It only takes a small amount to impair your ability to drive.
Mobile Phones & Driving Distractions
It is illegal to drive while using your mobile phone in Ireland. Recent studies show that you are 4 times more likely to crash whilst using your mobile phone. It should also be noted that there are penalties enforced by the police for using your mobile phone while driving, with the change in law coming in place on 1st May 2014.
Driver distractions cause accidents and can lead to fatal road errors. Irish country roads are lined with forests and fields, which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Drive at a speed that gives you enough time to stop if an animal runs out in front of your car.
Have a look at our article on driver distractions to see if you are guilty of any of these bad habits. Our world today demands we give a lot of attention to our mobile phones. However, the risk your taking by answering a call or text could prove fatal for you or others. Switch your phone off before you begin your journey, this will help you to avoid checking your phone and losing focus. If you do need to check your phone, pull in at a safe area and do so.
Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents in Ireland. People often feel tempted to finish the last part of long journey even though they know they're not feeling completely focussed.
There are a number of tips you can follow to prevent driver fatigue and to keep yourself fresh for those longer journeys:
• Keep your window slightly open. This will ensure there is fresh air in the car and the breeze will keep you alert.
• If feeling drowsy, pull over and grab a refreshment to help you stay alert and therefore less likely to become tired.
• If you are driving with a companion, take turns at the wheel while the other rests (providing your passenger is eligible to drive the car)
• If you're feeling tired and on your own, then simply pull over and take a rest.
Fuelling Your Vehicle
Fuelling your car can differ from country to country. For instance, in some areas of the USA, an attendant looks after this for you. The pumps themselves can also be labelled differently from country to country.
When in Ireland be sure you know if your vehicle takes diesel or unleaded. Diesel is usually in the black pump while unleaded (petrol) is in the green pump. Be sure not to confuse these. By putting the wrong fuel in the wrong engine you could damage the car. If you do make the mistake then contact a member of the petrol station immediately.
Petrol currently retails for roughly 154.9c per litre while Diesel retails for rough 146.9c per litre.
There are a number of 24/7 petrol stations closer to the larger urban areas. However, be sure to fill your tank with an adequate amount of fuel before a long journey. Many of Ireland's country roads have no petrol stations for long stretches, so be sure to fill up and avoid running low on a remote country road.
Top Traffic Areas and Parking
Traffic is an issue that most countries deal with. As in other countries, Ireland has its peak and off peak traffic times. Early morning during school drop offs and before work are always bad times for driving, especially in the larger cities. In turn, late afternoons and evenings see poor traffic due to those finishing their working day.
Accidents and road works can also cause unexpected traffic and long delays. Keeping up to date on the latest traffic news is sure to cut down on time sitting in traffic.
Regular traffic updates can be found on the National Roads Authority website.
Finding a place to park in Ireland is usually a straight forward task. However, in the larger cities this can be more difficult. When waiting a long time for space, it can become tempting to park your car in the nearest open spot. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. there a number of areas where parking is not permitted. Make sure you're aware of these areas or you could return to find your car with a ticket, clamped or even towed away.
Here's a few areas to avoid parking in:
- Double yellow lines
- Single yellow lines
- Parking bays reserved for people with disabilities
- Loading bays
- Clearways and bus lanes
- Cycle tracks
- Pedestrian areas
- Bus and coach parking areas
- Taxi ranks and bus stops
Parking is recommended in pay and display areas, private car parks, and other areas where there is a "Parking" sign present.
Roads of Ireland
National roads in Ireland are often used for transportation of cargo. Sharp turns and bumps can cause cargo to move and even fall. Be on the lookout for items obstructing the road, and be sure to keep a safe distance from all large vehicles that that are carrying goods.
The majority of Ireland's roads are pothole free. However, some country roads are hotspots for them. Many of these potholes are deep and can cause accidents. It's important for drivers to be aware of them and to drive at a speed that allows you appropriate time to negotiate them safely.
Ireland is famous for its colloquialisms. While these might make the country unique and interesting, people visiting Ireland may not be fully familiar. In case you find yourself stuck on a country road or are looking for information - here's a couple of helpful translations:
- Petrol = Gasoline
- Petrol station = Gas station, or garage (for buying fuel)
- Fuel consumption = Gas mileage
- Number plate = License plate
- Bonnet = Hood
- Boot = Trunk
- Manual gearbox = Stick shift
- Handbrake = Parking brake
- Footpath = Sidewalk, or pavement
- Car park = Parking lot
- Dual carriageway = Divided highway
- Motorway = Freeway
- Roundabout = Circle, or traffic circle
Useful Numbers and Links
In an emergency dial 999.
Local weather information: http://www.weather.com/
Route planning: http://www.maps.ie/route-planner.htm
National Roads Authority: https://www.nratraffic.ie/
Liberty Insurance: https://www.libertyinsurance.ie/