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'Hello, what's your emergency?' 'I'm going to wedding and I'm lost!'

HAPLESS motorists are using emergency roadside telephones to ask for directions.

Up to 100 drivers a year are using the phones after getting lost on our road network.

And the National Roads Authority (NRA) has revealed that another 350 drivers call its emergency helpline because they run out of fuel.

In some cases, roadside crews are forced to search for miles for broken-down vehicles because the driver is unable to give precise details of where they are.

Dangerous

"The telephones are predominantly there for emergency needs, but people do call looking for directions, and they're not all foreign drivers," a spokesman for the NRA said.

"In one case, people got lost going to a wedding and called for directions. They were supposed to be following friends and they lost them.

"In another, a man crossed the motorway to say the roadside telephone on one side didn't work.

"We would ask drivers not to cross the motorway as it's extremely dangerous."

The solar-powered phones are manned 24 hours a days, 365 days a year, and are designed to be used in emergencies such as breakdowns, blown tyres or when drivers fall ill.

The phones are located on all 13 national routes, which includes motorways and dual carriageways, and are located 1.6km apart.

Figures from the NRA show that last year 1,878 calls were made, down from 2,109 in 2011. Local emergency crews are directed to assist drivers, who pay for the service.

During the two-year period, almost 200 calls were made seeking directions, while many other calls could be avoided if drivers remembered to fill up before taking long trips.

"That's one of the things that boggles the mind," the spokesman added.

"Unless for some reason it's not working, you have a fantastic instrument in the car called a fuel gauge and you should use it."

The figures also show:

• A total 3,987 calls were made during the two-year period. Most, 1,974, came after vehicles broke down.

• Another 807 related to blown or flat tyres, and 701 were made after cars ran out of fuel.

• A total144 reported debris on the road, 68 related to "illegal activities" and 72 were reporting accidents.

• Just 11 calls were made after the driver of the vehicle fell ill.

The NRA plans to install new signs on almost 1,200km of motorways and dual carriageways to allow drivers to pinpoint their exact location.

The Location Reference Indicator signs will be deployed every 500 metres along the network and provide information on the road's route number, the direction being travelled and the distance in kilometres travelled from the start of the motorway or dual carriageway.

Location Reference Markings are also being deployed on the hard shoulder every 100 metres. The signs are expected to be installed over the next year.

Irish Independent