Wednesday 13 November 2019

Poor lane discipline, bad use of indicators and failure to light up properly have us all driven to distraction

Talking Point

The inside lane: Why do drivers avoid it like the plague?
The inside lane: Why do drivers avoid it like the plague?

Cathal Doyle

As a nation we can be considered reasonably safe drivers.

Indeed, as ranked by the European Transport Safety Council Road Safety Performance Index, we had the third lowest level of road traffic deaths per capita in 2018.

That was after Norway and the UK.

But does that necessarily make us good drivers? I don't think so.

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While we don't, on the whole, tend to do crazy things like overtaking blindly around corners, we do have certain idiosyncrasies.

Many of them are unique to these shores and are capable of having overseas drivers scratching their heads in bewilderment.

One of the stand-out examples will become apparent to any visitor to our shores who arrives into Dublin Port or picks up a hire car at the airport and finds themselves shortly afterwards on the M50.

Want to guess what it is before going any further? It is our near-blanket refusal to drive on the inside lane of three-lane motorways or carriageways.

The Rules of the Road are simple on this. Unless you are overtaking on a two- or three-lane road, you should keep to the lane that is furthest to the left.

Yet even when these roads are quiet, with no other traffic around, the majority of Irish drivers choose to pedal along in the middle lane.

And when traffic is busy, it's common to see the two outside lanes bumper to bumper with only the odd vehicle populating the inside lane.

How this situation has evolved seems to be just a bad habit picked up from each other, combined with, it has to be said, a complete lack of enforcement from An Garda Síochána.

Overall, our lane discipline on our motorway network is pretty atrocious.

Many seem to think it their God-given right to hold up lines of traffic in the overtaking lane even if there is no traffic inside.

Such drivers would be in for a rude awaking if they tried this abroad.

Dawdle in the overtaking lane in Italy, for example, and you'll quickly have an aural and visual cacophony of horns and flashing lights from irate drivers behind.

And woe betide any driver failing to move out of the fast lane on German autobahns, where cars can come up behind you at 200kmh in the blink of an eye.

We also have some rather strange habits when it comes to the use of indicators and hazard warning lights.

One that has become popular is to flash your hazards to thank a vehicle that has accommodated you to overtake them.

What's wrong with that you may say? It's nice to be nice.

Indeed it is, but for some drivers it seems to be more important to thank the other driver than to complete the overtaking manoeuvre quickly and safely.

On a number of occasions I've seen hazard lights come on while the driver is still in the middle of overtaking.

More worrying was the sight of a driver taking a vicious swerve as he/she obviously was reaching across to the hazard switch.

And when you see the two orange blinkers come on when a car overtakes bicycles or even pedestrians, you have to wonder if the driver thinks it's a compulsory part of overtaking.

Speaking of overtaking: what's with the drivers who don't bother to indicate right when they commence an overtake but then put on the left indicator when pulling back into lane?

Thanks for the warning and all that, but I wasn't really expecting you to stay out on the wrong side of the road indefinitely.

Our use of indicators on roundabouts is pretty shocking too.

It can lead to considerable traffic build-up as drivers waiting to enter try to double guess if the car on the roundabout is going to exit or continue coming around.

It's perhaps becoming less of an issue these days as daytime running lights and automatic headlights become more common, but we're also pretty bad at lighting up in poor conditions.

Actually, almost as dangerous as the no-lights brigade are those who think using the candle strength illumination of parking lights makes them visible in murky conditions to oncoming traffic.

They're called parking lights for a reason…

I do have a sneaking respect though for those who use parking lights combined with fog lights, even in pitch-black conditions.

God bless you, but you must have great eyesight indeed.

* Do let us know what peculiarities you have noticed about drivers and driving in Ireland as opposed to abroad.

Contact on email with your tales.

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