Driven too Distraction

I’ve recently acquired a car here in the UK and I have to confess there is a case of getting use to the UK’s roads and driving habits.

For example, a Sat-Nav is next to useless in Ireland (as we don’t have postcodes and our road networks been changing so much during the boom, its unlikely to be up-to-date and some of our roads you really don’t want to drive down as there’s no guarantee you’ll ever emerge again!), while in the UK it is essential. In Ireland the road network is reasonably straight forward to navigate by map. Well to us Irish anyway, to tourists maybe not, indeed this is why Ireland has no real proper army as we know that if anyone invades they’ll inevitably get lost, run out of petrol and have to surrender to the local postman ;D.

By I digress! In the UK a working Sat-Nav is an essential item, as there is literally nowhere on the UK road network to pull in and consult a map. And of course any map in the UK just shows you a maze of lines around major towns (the streets inside of course being a network of one-way streets with no-right turns in odd places interconnected by roundabouts 88|), so that’s not much good. Asking for directions isn’t much good either as English people don’t speak to each other – if you’re lucky enough to find someone who is local! So you need to have a Sat-Nav. Indeed it should be part of the UK MOT in my opinion….which means my car is currently failing!

Another thing is driving styles, for example, I see a pot-hole, I’ll try and swerve around it (a practiced skill in rural Irish roads that every Irish driver quickly learns). Obviously, I’ll only do this in a way that doesn’t cause any danger, but Brits seem to react with horror when they see you doing this.

Also parking. In Ireland parallel parking is less common and it wasn’t even part of the test when I did it, so my parking skills are going to need some practice. Indeed I remember once seeing this guy double parked in Kerry (worse all the other cars were perpendicularly parked so he was blocking in about 4 or 5 cars). Along comes a cop, I think oh! Here comes trouble. What does the cop do? Parks next to him and wanders into the pub! That’s Ireland for you!

I love this “passing places” you have on narrow single lane roads. We don’t have those in Ireland despite the fact that single lane roads (well you could call boreens “two lanes” as there’s grass growing down the middle usually!) make up a large part of the Irish rural road network. So how do we Irish get past one another? We just play chicken and drive towards the other driver with out any hesitation or sign that you indent to stop and wait for him to pull over. If he doesn’t (or you’d don’t blink first) they you end up bumper to bumper in a bit of a Mexican standoff while ye work out who is going to reverse and let the other pass (note to tourists, if you’re not local then usually you’re the one who has to give way….that is unless you want an encounter with banjo equipped Irish hill-billies |-|)

Also flashing people with you’re lights and haz-lights. Often in Ireland this is taken as a courtesy signal, e.g. “I’m letting you out don’t just sit there!” or “ta for letting me pass” but the brit’s don’t seem to get that.

Please Signal
And speaking of “flashing lights” I’m not sure if some other drivers realise that they have these little yellow lights on the corner of the car. They are called “indicators” and they are used to inform other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians of your future driving intentions.

It really infuriates me when I see people maneuvering without indicating first, especially when you’re on a bike as this can put you in quite serious danger. When I’ve been in a car with someone who doesn’t signal (such as my dad) his excuse is, oh I only do that when I have too/see someone.

That just winds me up even more, as it suggests to me that anytime I’ve seen some maneuvering without signalling they’ve not seen me. Indeed the whole point of signalling is for the benefit of drivers who you haven’t seen, as well as the rest of us mere mortals who lack the clairvoyant powers to know what you’re planning to do next.

Just so we’re clear the rules of the road, in both Ireland and UK state that “signalling is a declaration of intent. It does not confer right of way”. A lot of drivers seem to think signalling means “get out of my way”. No it doesn’t! If I’m going straight on and you decide to turn right across my path the judge ain’t going to entertain the “but I wz signalling guv’nor” excuse for one minute. I had right of way and was entitled to assume you won’t be stupid enough to swerve in front of me (and again the whole point of signalling and rights of way is defence in depth against accidents, I might have been distracted by the actions of another driver and simply not seen you in time….or swerving around a pot-hole! :>>).

Similarly it would be useful for some motorists, particularly those driving Merc’s, Audi’s or BMW’s, to respect it when other people signal to manoeuvre (it occurs to me that these cars must come with a certificate stating that the driver owns the road, as it could well explain a lot of their behaviour). I almost had a bump coming off the motorway the other month, went to change lanes (left), checked mirrors, signalled left, check my mirror again, started manoeuvring only to hear the horn blaring behind me. It would seem some jack ass in a BMW had come flying down the off ram and decided to undertake me (i.e. I did not seem him because he was sitting in my blind spot when I looked in the mirror the second time) and so no reason to stop.

Now I realise that the with car he was driving (a BMW) brake pedals and indicator lights are sort of optional extras (given that I rarely see BMW drivers using them :))). But he would be well advised to learn that other drivers do use them from time to time. Then again, BMW drivers are, according to the Telegraph the country’s worst and angriest drivers.

And I wonder why car insurance rates are so high!


One thought on “Driven too Distraction

  1. There’s a lot of truth there! My own driving style is based on the idea that if all drivers co-operate we will all get there soon enough, so I get carved up by dim-wits a lot.


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