Rules of the Road
Driving Your Car
Before moving off, you should always check that your rear view mirrors are properly adjusted and clean, that all doors are securely shut, and that your seatbelt is securely fastened. Traffic should be checked in mirrors and over your shoulder, you should signal your intention to move out and only move when the way is clear. Remember, when moving out, you must yield right of way to other traffic and pedestrians.
A driver must, in general, drive as close to the left of the road as necessary to allow approaching traffic to pass and following traffic to overtake (if safe to do so). The only time it is necessary to move from this positing is when overtaking, turning right, passing pedestrians, vehicles, cyclists, or in other situations when it is safe to do so.
A driver should never move from one traffic lane to another without good cause, and should always remember to yield right of way to other traffic in that lane. If you need to change lanes, check in good time that the way is clear before indicating and moving over. When approaching junctions, pay attention to road markings and obey arrow markings unless it is not possible for you to do so or if you cause danger or inconvenience to other road users.
Overtaking should never happen unless it can be done without risking your own safety or the safety of another road user. Before overtaking, make sure the road is clear for a sufficient distance before checking mirrors, signalling your intention, and moving out with the intention to overtake. Extra care should always be taken when overtaking a vehicle displaying a LONG VEHICLE signal. Never overtake on a hill, bend, bridge, narrowing road, or area of pedestrian crossing.
A driver must never drive at a speed exceeding that which enables them to stop within the distance they can see to be clear. This rule applies to any speed limit in force. In built-up areas, the speed limit is often 50 km/h but on certain roads, higher limits may apply.
Driving at night requires different skills to daytime driving. When driving at night, it is important that your lamps, indicators, reflectors, and number plate lighting are in good working order and clean. A clean windscreen is also important when night-time driving. Dipped headlights should be used when driving in built-up areas, meeting over traffic, in dense fog or snow, and when following other cars, and full headlights should be used otherwise.
Before reversing or turning, a driver must check carefully all around, including in mirrors and over both shoulders. If you need to turn when on a major road, seek a convenient side road, reverse slowly far enough into the side road so as to permit you to take up the appropriate position on the left to re-join the major road. Before reversing, you must give way to other traffic and pedestrians. Extra care should be taken when reversing in darkness. A driver must never reverse from a side road on to a major road.
When towing another vehicle or a trailer, remember that:
• The draw-bar, rope or other towing device is strong enough to withstand breakage and secured that it will not become detached while in use.
• The distance between the vehicles/vehicle and trailer must not exceed 5 metres.
• Where the distance between the vehicles exceeds 1.5 metres, a warning device, such as a white flag at least 12 inches square, must be attached to the towing device.
• If the trailer has its own steering gear, an attendant must be present to take charge of the steering, and, if the vehicle being towed is itself a mechanically propelled vehicle, the attendant must be the holder of a licence to drive that class of vehicle.
• If the trailer exceeds 15 cwt in laden weight or half the laden weight of the drawing vehicle (whichever is the less) it must be fitted with brakes.
• A combination of vehicles or an articulated vehicle exceeding 13 metres in length must display a Long Vehicle sign or signs on the back of the rearmost trailer.
• Loads projecting more than 1 metre to the rear must be marked in daytime by a red flag or marked board and at night time by a red reflector and red lamp. A load projecting to the side must be marked at night by a lamp or lamps showing a white light to the front and a red lamp to the rear.
Before slowing down or stopping, ensure you are doing so in a safe area. When stopping, check your mirrors to ensure you can slow down and stop safely. If you can, stop in a parking space or traffic lay-by. Otherwise, stop as close to the left hand side of the road as possible. Always take the car out of gear when stopping fully and turning off the engine.
When you approach a stop sign on a road, you must stop at the white line, when there is one. If there is no white line, you must stop at the sign.
Yield signs are provided at junctions at which the right of way can be yielded by slowing down and stopping only if necessary to allow oncoming traffic to pass.
Driving On Motorways
Motorways are designed to allow faster journey times with greater safety through the separation of traffic and elimination of road junctions. Motorways cannot be used by learner drivers, vehicles with engine capabilities of less than 50cc, invalid carriages, cyclists, and animals. Regulations require motorists to drive only in the direction of traffic flow, prohibit driving on or across any part of the motorway which is not a carriageway, prohibit stopping or parking on any part of the motorway, prohibit driving of any vehicle for which an ordinary maximum speed limit of 80kph or lower is prescribed (buses, coaches, goods vehicles with a design gross vehicle weight in excess of 3,500 kilograms or a vehicle drawing another vehicle) from driving in the traffic lane nearest the right hand edge of the carriageway except in exceptional circumstances e.g. lane closed or obstructed. These regulations also deal with the procedures that must be followed in the event of an accident or breakdown.
When you join a motorway using a slip road, you must give right of way to traffic already on the motorway. When entering, watch for a safe gap in the left-hand lane and adjust your speed to match, where possible, traffic already on the motorway. Stay in the left-hand lane long enough to ensure your speed matches the other traffic before attempting to overtake.
On a motorway, the normal “keep left” rule always applies. In a three lane carriageway, you may stay in the centre lane in slow moving traffic. A vehicle drawing a trailer should never use the right-hand lane of a carriageway with three or more lanes unless in exceptional circumstances.
Similar to other roads, overtaking must only be done on the right, unless traffic is moving in queues and the traffic on your right is moving slower than you are. Before overtaking, ensure that the way is clear by checking mirrors and blind spot. Signal well in advance, and return to your original lane as soon as possible.
If your vehicle breaks down on a motorway, you should move it off the carriageway to the hard shoulder and switch on your hazard warning lights. Where possible, display a warning triangle. Do not attempt to cross or walk on the carriageway. Use the roadside telephone to inform the Gardai. Do not delay in obtaining assistance and do not leave your vehicle unattended for longer than necessary. If you cannot move your vehicle off the carriageway, take whatever steps you can to warn other drivers of its presence. When re-joining the carriageway, build up your speed first on the hard shoulder. Watch for a safe gap in the traffic before re-joining it.
Stopping and parking is not permitted on a motorway. The only exceptions to this rule is if your car breaks down, if you are signalled to do so by a garda, or in emergency situations. Take care when stopping in these situations.
On dual carriageways, the general rule of driving on the left applies. The outer lane of a two-lane dual carriageway should be used only by: Faster moving traffic, overtaking, and when intending to turn right a short distance ahead. The outer lane of a three-lane dual carriageway should only be used for overtaking or when it is intended to make a right turn a short distance ahead.
When turning right on a dual carriageway, follow normal procedure and move into the right hand lane or deceleration lane. At the junction, turn into the "median" space (the central dividing strip) and wait for a safe gap in traffic before crossing or turning into the other carriageway. Aim to get into the left hand lane as you complete your turn.
When you wish to cross a dual carriageway, do so by turning right and treating each half as a separate, one-way road. Cross the first half when it is clear and wait in the median space until there is a safe gap in the traffic before completing the crossing or turn.
Driving on Junctions
Before turning right, check your mirror well in advance for traffic following behind. If the way is clear, signal and take up a position just left of the middle of the road or in the space provided for right turning traffic. Where possible, leave room for traffic to pass on the left. When a safe gap occurs in oncoming traffic, complete the turn and enter the road on the left hand side. Ensure you pay heed to any STOP and YIELD signs on the junction.
At crossroads, a lot more awareness is necessary than on T junctions. The 'driver side to driver side' method is the more preferable manoeuvre but if this is not possible, the 'passenger side to passenger side' method is acceptable. When turning right, crossing traffic which also turning right, every effort should, where feasible, be made to turn rear to rear thereby giving clear visibility of and to oncoming traffic.
When turning left, check for traffic well in advance using your mirrors. Give a left turn signal and slow down. Watch particularly for cyclists or motorcyclists coming up on your left. Keep as close as possible to the left edge of the roadway. Make the turn, again keeping close to the left hand edge. If at a T-Junction, it is important to give way to both sides of traffic.
Box junctions require that you must never enter the box area unless you can clear it without stopping or are turning right. Under no circumstances should a motorist ever enter the hatched area of a box junction unless you can exit without stopping.
Roundabouts require motorists to drive in a manner which takes prevailing conditions, safe speed, and lane discipline into account. Drivers should enter roundabouts in the appropriate lane and drive to the left at all times. The following applies to all roundabouts and mini roundabouts:
Treat the roundabout as a normal junction which means you yield right of way to traffic approaching on the roundabout.
• IF LEAVING BY THE FIRST EXIT approach and enter the roundabout in the left-hand lane signalling a left turn and proceed to leave the roundabout at that exit.
• IF LEAVING BY THE SECOND EXIT approach and enter the roundabout in the left-hand lane but do not signal until you have passed the first exit then signal a left turn and leave at the next exit.
• IF LEAVING BY ANY SUBSEQUENT EXIT approach and enter the roundabout in the right hand lane signalling a right turn. Keep in the right hand lane (i.e. the lane next to the centre). As you pass the exit before the one you intend to leave by, signal a left turn and, when your way is clear, move to the other lane and leave at the desired exit.
Remember that signals are merely indications of intent. They do not confer right of way. When in doubt, play safe - YIELD.
When approaching roads of equal importance you must yield to traffic on your right. When approaching a T junction, traffic on the road ending at the junction must give way to traffic from either direction on the other road. When turning right, you must yield to traffic coming straight through from the opposite direction.
Where two vehicles coming from opposite directions are turning into the same road, the vehicle turning right should give way to the vehicle turning left.
At all times you must yield to:
• Traffic already turning at a junction.
• A pedestrian already crossing at a junction.
• A pedestrian on a zebra crossing.
• A pedestrian on a pelican crossing when the amber light is flashing.
• Pedestrians and traffic when you are moving off from a stationary position.
• Traffic in another lane when you wish to change lanes.
• Traffic on a public road when you are coming out of a private entrance.
Rules for Traffic Lights
A driver approaching a red traffic light must not proceed beyond the stop line at the light. If there is no stop line, stop at the light.
A driver approaching a traffic light showing green may proceed past the light provided the way is clear.
A driver approaching a traffic light showing amber while no other traffic light (immediately above or below) shows any light, must not proceed beyond the stop line at that light (or if there is no stop line, beyond that light). The only exception to this is when the vehicle is so close to the stop line when the amber light first engaged that the vehicle cannot safely be halted before the stop line. Always approach traffic lights at such a speed which will enable you to stop if the amber light shows on your approach. Remember, a flashing amber light at a pedestrian crossing means you must yield to pedestrians.
A driver approaching a traffic light showing a lighted green arrow may proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow- provided the way is clear and it is safe to do so.
Special Driving Conditions
One-way streets are illustrated by No Entry or Proceed This Way signs. These also may be illustrated by road markings. Lane discipline must be observed in one-way streets. When driving on one-way streets, you must take note of arrow markings on the road and should drive on either side of traffic refuge in a one-way street.
You must not drive on pedestrian streets during times of operation. Such streets will be indicated by the traffic sign opposite and are closed to all vehicular traffic at particular times. The times will be shown on the information plate accompanying the sign as illustrated.
Bus lanes are sections of roadway reserved for buses providing a scheduled service
There are two types of bus lane:
• With-Flow Bus Lanes: run in the same direction as the traffic using the carriageway. These lanes are normally reserved during peak traffic periods and such other periods as are indicated on information signs provided at the entrance to the lanes. These lanes can be also used by taxis and cyclists.
• Contra-Flow Bus Lanes: run in the opposite direction to traffic using the same carriageway. They are generally provided in one-way streets. These lanes are reserved on a full-time basis for buses and no other traffic may use them.
At a gated but unattended level crossing, signposted by the sign shown opposite, stop short of the crossing and: Get out of the vehicle, look both ways and listen to ensure that no train is approaching, ensure that BOTH gates are open before starting to cross, and close both gates after you have crossed.
Instead of gates, some level crossings are equipped with lights and with barriers which extend over half the width of the road on each side. These will be sign-posted as shown here. (Under no circumstances should a driver try to zigzag round the barriers). When a train is approaching, twin red lights will commence to flash alternately, warning bells will sound and the barriers will descend. These flashing red lights will be preceded by a steady amber light.
At some unattended level crossings, there are neither gates nor barriers and the crossing is protected only by twin red flashing lights which are activated by an approaching train. While the red lights are flashing you must not proceed beyond the stop line, or, where there is no stop line, beyond the flashing red lights. If a second train is coming its approach will be indicated by an illuminated sign SECOND TRAIN COMING, placed below the light board. As soon as the train(s) has passed, the barrier will rise.
Other types of level crossings include attended gated crossings and unattended crossings equipped with barriers extended over the full width of the road. Because of the risk of road vehicles hitting level crossing gates, barriers or trains, drivers must approach level crossings with due caution and always be in a position to come to a halt in front of the gates or barriers.