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Driving in Ireland - Advice for tourists

If you’re planning on hiring a car in Ireland, there’s a wealth of scenic drives for you and your passengers to look forward to. However before you arrive, it’s important to take some time to familiarize yourself with the Irish rules of the road to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

To help you with this, we’ve put together the following foreign motorists’ survival guide to driving in Ireland:

Your driving license

Most Irish car rental companies will ask to see a full driving license issued by the country in which you live, not an international driving license/permit.

Driving orientation

The driver’s seat in Irish vehicles is on the right hand side of the car and traffic travels on the left hand side of the road.

Speed limits

In January 2005, all driving speed limit signs in Ireland changed from miles per hour to kilometers per hour.  The maximum permissible driving speed on Irish Motorways is 120km/ph.  A full classification of Irish speed limits can be seen below:

Irish motorways     

It’s worth bearing in mind that motorway driving isn’t currently taught to learner drivers in Ireland and huge numbers of drivers learned to drive in the era before the high-speed modern motorways of today’s Ireland.  It’s not uncommon to see Irish motorists frequently misuse the overtaking lane on motorways, with many motorists cruising in the outer lane for kilometers at a time.  

Alcohol

The driver’s legal alcohol limit is 0.8% in Ireland (80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100ml of blood) and is set to be further reduced to 50mg toward the end of 2011.  Following the introduction of the Road Traffic Act 2006 the Gardaí (Irish police force) now have wider powers to reduce and eliminate the offence of drink driving on Irish roads including the ability carry out random breath-tests.

Seat belts

The wearing of seat belts in front and rear seats of a vehicle is compulsory in Ireland.  There’s also an additional onus on drivers to ensure persons under 17 travelling with them are suitably restrained. To view our guide to child safety and use of in-car child restraints click here.

Back roads

Despite the significant enhancement of Ireland’s national road infrastructure in recent times, it’s worth noting, especially if using a SatNav, that many local roads are still quite narrow and winding, with no hard shoulder.   With this in mind’ it’s vital to stay informed of potentially hazardous driving conditions such as fog or ice. To do this motorists should listen to AA Roadwatch traffic and travel updates on the radio/visit the AA Roadwatch website/call the AA Roadwatch jam buster line on 1550 22 22 11.

Mobile phones

Irish Road Traffic laws deem it illegal use a hand held mobile phone while driving in Ireland.  Our advice is to all motorists is to turn it off or put it on silent until you can pull the car in somewhere safe/ you reach your destination.

Recommended equipment

When hiring a car, it’s advisable to double check it has all the equipment you’ll need such as a spare wheel and wheel changing equipment, breakdown-warning triangle, hi-vis vest and the car’s owner’s manual. 

Roadside assistance for AA UK Members

AA UK Members are covered for AA breakdown assistance in Ireland.  When visiting Ireland from the UK, AA UK Members should bring their AA membership card with them and contact the AA Rescue Centre on  01 6179104 in the event of a breakdown.

Dangerous driving and penalty points

When driving in Ireland you’ll be subjected to Ireland’s driving penalty points system, a system designed to save lives and prevent injuries resulting from road crashes and collisions.

 When driving in Ireland on a foreign driving license, your details will be held on a separate database for the purpose of recording driver penalty points. If you later obtain an Irish driving license, any previously acquired  penalty points will be activated on that license.

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