Too many of us take our driving licences for granted, especially once we have been on the road for a while. So naturally there is no shortage of myths flying around – whether online or by word of mouth – on all aspects of driving, vehicle maintenance and road safety. Some are plain silly, others are downright dangerous. We thought it was about time we took a few of them to task.
MYTH 1: Can You Drive 10% Over the Speed Limit?
This is one of the most enduring and pervasive myths, but it’s just not true. The speed you see on road signs is the maximum permitted speed in perfect conditions – it’s not a target. Therefore, if you exceed it, you are in breach of the law and the Gardaí are perfectly entitled to charge you with speeding. Don’t take the risk.
MYTH 2: Winding Down the Window and Listening to Loud Music Helps with Driving Fatigue
Everyone now knows that driving when tired is dangerous, with even the slightest lapse at the wheel potentially proving fatal. Drivers use all sorts of strategies, therefore, to stay alert – but they aren’t always a good idea. Winding down the window to let the cold air in, or blasting some Metallica, may perk you up for a very short time, but they may also prove distracting, and they certainly won’t give you the sustained alertness that you need to be able to drive safely.
There are some strategies that do work, though. First and foremost, there’s really no substitute for stopping and resting. Plan ahead, allow more time for your journey and stop in a safe place for a 20 minute nap and a coffee. That’s right, caffeine does work – and if you have company then why not share the driving? That way you get to sleep on the move.
MYTH 3: You Can Save Money by Buying Part-Worn Tyres
When money is tight, it might be tempting to try saving a bit of cash by buying second-hand tyres. But in reality, it’s a false economy – depending on price, you may have to buy and fit three sets of part-worn tyres in order to get the same lifespan as one new set.
Not only that, it could be downright dangerous. Even if the tyres exceed the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm, the AA recommend that you should check your tread regularly once it dips below 3mm and replace your tyres before it hits 2mm. Why? Any less and they won’t do their jobs properly, especially in winter. And without knowing the full history of the tyres, there’s no way of knowing if they have been involved in a crash or suffered internal damage. You could be driving along with your safety resting on four little time bombs.
MYTH 4: There’s No Point in Servicing Your Car Between NCTs
Servicing is not just for getting your car through the NCT – regular checks are essential for the maintenance of a healthy motor. By skimping on servicing, you run the risk of missing minor defects which could become big, expensive problems resulting in all sorts of pain. We’re talking extra maintenance payouts, costly replacement parts and even having to replace your car sooner than you had budgeted for.
Then there’s fuel. A poorly serviced car can use 10-20% more, and while the price of petrol and diesel have fallen over the last year they remain a significant expense. Assuming an average annual mileage of 12,000 at an average consumption of 30 miles per gallon, the average driver will go through 150 litres of fuel every year, costing around €190 per month. Add 20% to that and you could be stung for an extra €38 each and every month. Best avoided, we think.
Speaking of servicing, AA members can avail of a couple of discounts from FirstStop – €5 off tyres and 10% off other products and services. If you’re not already an AA member, you can join here.
MYTH 5: You Can Never Drive Too Slowly
Speed kills – this we know. But while most of the focus is quite rightly on the dangers of high speed, inappropriately low speed can also cause problems. For example, have you ever encountered a vehicle crawling along on a motorway? In that context, a car can become a hazard and the driver could be charged for dangerous driving. The golden rule here is to drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions, to stay aware of what’s around you, and to give away to faster vehicles if they wish to pass.
MYTH 6: Stay Under the Speed Limit & You Can’t Be Prosecuted for Speeding
As we emphasised above, speed limits are not targets. Even if you stay below the limit on any given road, it’s still possible to drive too quickly – for example, in icy conditions or on a foggy motorway. As a driver, it’s your responsibility to tailor your driving and your speed to the conditions. In any case, not every road in the country has been individually assessed. For those that haven’t been – often remote country roads – the default limit is 80kph. But driving at that speed along a glorified track with tufts of grass running down the middle would clearly not be wise. Common sense is king.
MYTH 7: Driving After One or Two Drinks Isn’t Drink-Driving
Science says otherwise. According to the RSA, drivers are six times more at risk of having a collision at the old legal limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.08), compared to a blood alcohol level of zero. The legal limit is now 0.05, but even at 0.04, drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a collision.
And why is that? Well, when you have a drink the alcohol hits your brain within minutes. Your brain activity slows and starts to close down, quickly impairing your driving skills. As a result, you start to focus more on steering and less on other dangers on the road – like the child about to step out in front of you. In conclusion, the only safe advice is to never, ever drink and drive.
MYTH 8: Beeping Your Horn is For Telling People They’ve Done Something Wrong
As much as you may be tempted to use your horn to take out your frustrations on fellow drivers, its purpose is to let other drivers know you’re there – for example when approaching a blind bridge or corner – or to warn people of a hazard ahead. Remember too that using your horn does not automatically give you right of way. And be careful about where and when you use it – blaring your horn in a built-up area between 11:30pm and 7am is an offence unless there is a traffic emergency.
Can you think of any other motoring myths that we should bust? Let us know in the comments!