Guide to Driving In Ireland - Drive Safe in Ireland
Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Ireland?
You may think that driving in Ireland would be exactly the same as driving in the UK but there are many subtle differences. You need to be aware of them to prevent yourself falling foul of the Gardai, the Irish police. In Ireland, as in the UK (and Northern Ireland), all traffic drives on the left hand side of the road. That means that you give away to the right and this includes at roundabouts. You must by law give way to any emergency services vehicles such as ambulances and police cars with flashing lights. Most cars are manuals although you can rent automatics if you are willing to pay a little bit extra.
If you are driving in rural areas then watch out for potholes or livestock crossing the road. It can be a good idea to rent a 4x4 vehicle. Rush hour in Dublin is very busy and chaotic - best avoided!
Seat Belt Laws
Everyone travelling in a car must wear a seatlbelt and it's the driver's responsibility to make sure the law is followed.
Drinking and Driving
The Drink Driving Limit in Ireland is 50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood for experienced drivers - much lower than the rate in the UK. For learners and those driving for less than two years the limit is 20mg per 100ml of blood. Both these figures man that you can be over the limit with just one drink so we recommend that you do not drink then get behind the wheel of a car in Ireland. The penalty is usually a two year driving ban and a fine of 1500 euros.
Must Have Documents
You need your passport and driving licence to hire a car. When you are driving you should also have the vehicle registration and proof of insurance documents on you in case you get stopped by the police; a green card from your insurers is also handy. Some companies require you to book vehicles using a credit card so that they can debit any charges or fines you may incur as well as being able to trace you should there be a problem.
All distance signs in Ireland are specified in kilmetres an hour - confusing if you cross over the border to or from the north where the signs are in miles per hour.
The speed limits are as follows:
50 kilometres per hour in built up areas
100 kilometres per hour on open roads
120 kilometres per hour on dual carriageways and motorways.
If you are caught speeding by a fixed camera you'll have a ticket sent to your home address or, if renting a car, the car rental company will forward the ticket to you. Mobile speed traps will issue you with an on the spot fine.
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age is 17. Most hire car companies require you to be over 25 years of age with some driving experience. Some will accept younger drivers but they may charge a premium for doing so.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Use of safety camera warning devices are illegal in Ireland and if you have the function on a sat-nav you will be expected to turn it off. If you are caught using one, it will be confiscated and you'll incur an on the spot fine.
On the Spot Fines
Ireland operates a system of on the spot fines for minor traffic offences. More serious offences such as dangerous driving or alcohol related offences will result in a summons and a court appearance. If you don't have the cash on you, you'll be taken to a cash machine.
Child Safety Rules
Children under the age of 12 or 1.5m tall cannot sit in the front of the car. They need to be secured in an appropriate child seat or booster with suitable restraints for their age or height.
A minimum of third party insurance cover is required in Ireland and you will need to be able to prove you have it if stopped. A green card, usually issued free of charge by your insurance company is useful.
Rules of the Road
Driving in Ireland is subject to standard European regulations with the following exception:
In Ireland you are not allowed to use your horn between 11.30pm and 7am in built up areas.
There are no specific rules for towing in Ireland - you are simply expected to use common sense and ensure that other drivers know what you are doing. Hazard warning lights and a visible sign are good ways of doing this.
There are many fixed speed cameras in Ireland and regular mobile speed check set ups. You are not allowed to use equipment to detect them although the location of fixed cameras is often forewarned with signs and you can view a map of their locations online. However, they are there for a reason and the speed limit should be obeyed.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is illegal and if caught you'll get an on the spot fine.
Parking can be quite difficult to find in the bigger cities and especially in Dublin. In the capital it's better to try to park in CCTV conrolled lots as car crime is high. On street parking is allowed where there are no lines painted against the kerb. Yellow lines mean no parking, single ones mean you can park at certain times. Double red lines mean no parking or waiting at any time. Road signs often tell you the exact regulation in force.
Pay and display is common in Ireland getting a ticket from a machine nearby. City centres can get quite congested and there are a number of park and ride schemes to help.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police or wardens in the cities. You'll get a ticket to be paid at council offices or banks. Details should appear on the ticket.
The disabled blue badge is widely recognised but we'd still recommend you check local restrictions on its use.
Motor Way Signs
Motorways have white writing on a blue background. Brown and white signs mark tourist attractions, while tourist information is marked in blue. While most road signs are in English some are in Gaelic. Warning signs in Ireland have yellow backgrounds and are diamond shaped whereas in the north they have a white background and a red border.
English is spoken everywhere although the road signs are in Englaish and Gaelic. Here are some phrases that American drivers may need some help with!
Petrol – Gasoline
Hard Shoulder – Left hand lane of motorway only to be used for stopping in emergencies.
Services – Motorway rest stops.
Zebra crossings - Pedestrian crossings
Excess – Deductible (insurance)
Gearbox – Transmission
Boot – Trunk
Bumper – Fender
Detour – Diversion
Indicators - Blinkers
Traffic lights follow the UK system and the only operation that may confuse overseas drivers is that you will get a red and amber together which means get ready for green.
There are seven toll roads in Ireland and six toll brdges or tunnels so make sure you have some change handy and remember the country uses Euros. Many motorists purchase an electronic tag which can be fitted to the car - ask car hire Ireland staff about this.
This is a list of the toll roads in Ireland –
1. M1 Motorway - Drogheda Bypass
3. M4 Kilcock - Enfield - Kinnegad Motorway
4. M6 Galway - Ballinasloe
5. M7 Portlaoise - Castletown
6. M8 Portlaoise - Cullahill
7. M8 Rathcormac - Fermoy Bypass
See our guide to toll roads in Ireland here.
The emergency services can be contacted on 999 or 112.
The British embassy is at 29 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 and can be contacted on (353) (1) 205 3700. Their website is http://britishembassyinireland.fco.gov.uk/en/
The American embassy is at 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge Dublin 4 and can be contacted on (353) (1) 668 8777. Their website is http://dublin.usembassy.gov/
What to do in an emergency
For a problem with the vehicle, call the number given to you by your car hire company or if driving your own car, the Irish partner of your home breakdown service.On thye motorways there are orange emergency phone boxes if you don'y have your mobile to hand.
If you are involved in an accident you should switch on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers. If serious, the accident should be reported to the relevant emergency services by dialling 999 or 112. Ensure all uninjured parties are moved to safety and away from the highway but don't move the vehicles unless they will cause danger to others. Whilst waiting for the police to arrive, it's a good idea to take photos of the scene then get details of the insurance policy of the other driver and any names and telephone numbers of witnesses.
Petrol prices are currently, as on May 2014, £1.32 for 95 octane unleaded and £1.25 for diesel.