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Rules of the Road
Driving the Car
Before you move off you should check that your rear view mirrors are clean and properly adjusted, that all doors are properly secured and that your safety belt and that of your passenger are fastened. Check the traffic situation in your mirrors and by looking over shoulder, signal your intention to move out and move out when the way is clear. Remember that when moving off you must yield right of way to other traffic and pedestrians.
Position on the Road
A driver must generally drive as near to the left hand side of the road as is necessary to allow approaching traffic to pass and following traffic to overtake on the right (without danger or inconvenience). When it is necessary to move from this normal left hand side of the road, as for example when overtaking, turning right or when passing pedestrians, cyclists or parked vehicles, make sure it is safe to do so. When it is necessary, check in your mirror to ensure another vehicle is not approaching from behind, give a clear signal to warn traffic in good time of your intentions and proceed with your manoeuvre.
A driver should not drive from one traffic lane to another without good cause, and without yielding the right of way to traffic in that other lane". It is clear, therefore, - where traffic lanes are provided, drive in them. If you have good cause to change lanes, check in good time that the way is clear and indicate before moving over.
At the approach to some junctions the lanes are marked with arrows which indicate the direction(s) which traffic in a particular lane should take. You must obey the arrow markings unless it is not possible for you to do so without causing danger or inconvenience to other traffic or pedestrians.
Do not overtake unless you can do so without risk to yourself or to others. You should be able to see that the road is clear for a sufficient distance to enable you to overtake. Be particularly careful of hills or dips in the road, bends, bridges, road narrowing or pedestrian crossings. Note also the rules regarding roadway markings (continuous and broken, single and double white lines). You must also check your mirror to ensure that another vehicle is not approaching from behind intending to overtake too.
• Where zigzag markings are provided on the approaches to Pelican or Zebra Crossings or Pedestrian Lights you must not overtake within that areas marked by these lines.
• Before overtaking check that the way is clear, check in your mirror to ensure another vehicle is not approaching from behind, give your signal in good time, move out when it is safe to do so, accelerate and overtake with the minimum of delay. When you are well past, signal and gradually move in again making sure not to cut across the vehicle you have passed.
• Extra care should be taken when overtaking a vehicle displaying a "LONG VEHICLE" sign. This means that the vehicle is at least 13 metres long and you will require significant road length to pass it.
• Normally you must overtake on the right but overtaking on the left is permitted when the car in front of you is waiting to turn right and there is enough room to safely overtake on the left.
"A DRIVER MUST NOT DRIVE A VEHICLE AT A SPEED EXCEEDING THAT WHICH WILL ENABLE HIM TO STOP WITHIN THE DISTANCE HE CAN SEE TO BE CLEAR".
This rule applies notwithstanding any maximum speed limit that may also be in force. In built-up areas the speed limit is normally 50km/h but on certain such roads higher limits may apply.
Driving at Night
Your lamps, indictors, reflectors and number plate lighting must be in good working order and should be kept clean so that you can see clearly and be seen at all times. A clean windscreen is also important when driving at night. You should drive at a speed that enables you to stop within the distance covered by your lights. In a typical car, the headlamps enable you to see for about 100 metres on an unlit road. Dipped lights will enable you to see for about 30 metres on an unlit road. Both examples assume good driving conditions.
• Even with the best headlamps, visibility at night is poorer than in daylight. Pedestrians and unlit bicycles are extremely difficult to see in the dark, particularly if a driver has to contend with the glare of un-dipped headlamps. If you are dazzled slow down and stop if necessary. To avoid dazzle, look towards the verge until the oncoming car has passed. Always watch for pedestrians or cyclists on the near side of the road.
• Badly adjusted (or dirty) headlamps will limit your range of vision and may dazzle on-coming traffic even when dipped. Keep them clean and adjusted properly.
When driving at night you must use your full headlamps except:
1. For a short period just after the beginning or before the end of lighting up hours (the period commencing half an hour after sunset on any day and ending half an hour before sunrise on the following day) provided visibility is adequate.
2. When stopped in the course of traffic.
3. In a built-up or special speed limit area where there is good street lighting.
You must dip your headlamps:
1. When meeting other traffic.
2. When driving in a built-up or special speed limit area except where the roads are unlit.
3. On continuously lit roads outside built-up or special speed limit areas.
4. When following close behind another vehicle.
5. At the beginning and end of lighting up hours.
6. Where there is dense fog or falling snow.
7. Generally to avoid inconveniencing other traffic.
It is good practice to use dipped headlamps or dim-dip lights, where fitted, to further improve visibility when driving in a built-up or special speed limit area where there is good street light as opposed to using sidelights only. Remember that even in day time if, due to failing light or atmospheric conditions (e.g. dusk, dawn, fog, snow, heavy rain etc.), visibility is reduced to that obtaining at night-fall or night time, the use of side lamps, rear lamps and number plate lighting is required. In addition, if the conditions are such that the use of your headlamps is necessary for safe driving, you must use your headlamps. When in doubt, use your headlamps (dipped or main beam, as appropriate).
Finally, don't drive on the tail lights of the car in front. It gives a false sense of security and may lure you into driving too close or too fast or both.
Before reversing a driver must ensure that he can do so without endangering other traffic or pedestrians. In practice this means checking carefully all around, forward and behind, over both shoulders and in mirrors. Special care should be taken in places where small children may be congregated (i.e. schools, playgrounds, residential roads or your own driveway). You might not see small children in your mirror or even in a quick glance over your shoulders. If your view is restricted seek assistance when reversing.
If you must 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 rejoin 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 not reverse from a side road on to a major road.
U-turns (turning your car around to face the opposite way).
This manoeuvre should be avoided except where traffic conditions allow it to be made in complete safety.
When making a U-turn ensure that:
• The road is not one way.
• You give way to all traffic.
• You do not cross a continuous centre white line.
If you are towing another vehicle or a trailer (including a boat trailer or a caravan) remember that:
• The draw-bar, rope or other towing device must be strong enough to withstand breakage and so secured that it will not become detached while in use.
• The distance between the vehicles (or between 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 you must give the proper signal as illustrated above.
Check in your mirror to make sure you can slow down and stop safely. If there is a traffic lay-by use it; otherwise pull in and stop close to the left hand side of the roadway. If you are stopping to refuel, remember to switch off the ignition before removing the filler cap.
This regulatory traffic sign demands that vehicles approaching the junction at which the sign is provided MUST STOP at the sign or at the stop line if this is provided even if there is no traffic on the major road. Traffic travelling in either direction along the major road has right of way at all times.
Yield Right of Way
This regulatory sign imposes the same obligation to concede right of way as the stop sign. In general, this will be provided at junctions at which the right of way can be yielded simply by slowing down and stopping only if necessary.
Driving on a Motorway
Motorways are roads which are designed to provide for faster journey times with greater safety through the separation of traffic and elimination of road junctions.
Motorways may not be used by
• Persons not holding full driving licences for the category of vehicle being driven.
• Vehicles with the engine capacity of 50cc or less.
• Vehicles incapable of speed of at least 50km/h (vehicles capable of a speed of 50 km/h may use a motorway whether or not propelled by internal combustion engine).
• Vehicles which do not use pneumatic tyres.
• Invalid carriages.
• Pedal cyclists.
The Road Traffic General Bye-Laws (Amendment) Regulations 1983 to 1992 deal with driving on motorways. Briefly these Regulations require motorists to drive only in the direction of traffic flow; prohibit the 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.
Attention is also drawn to the prohibition on picking up or setting down anybody on a motorway.
Joining the Motorway
When you join the motorway by way of a slip road you must give way to traffic already on the motorway. Watch for a safe gap in the traffic in the left-hand lane and adjust your speed as you join the motorway in order to match, as nearly as possible, the general speed of traffic in that lane. Stay in the left-hand lane long enough to adjust to the speed of traffic before attempting to overtake.
On the Motorway
You must only drive ahead. No other movement such as turning/reversing is permitted. You must progress at a speed and in such a manner as to avoid undue interference with other motorway traffic.
The normal "keep left" rule applies. This means that you stay in the left hand lane unless you are overtaking. In a three lane carriageway you may stay in the centre lane while there is slower moving traffic on the inner lane. A vehicle drawing a trailer should not use the right-hand lane of a carriageway with three or more lanes except in exceptional circumstances.
• Overtaking on the right only, unless traffic is moving in queues and the traffic queue on your right is moving slowly than you are.
• Before you start to overtake, check that the way is clear, (behind and ahead) and signal well in advance.
• Remember that traffic may be travelling significantly faster than on ordinary roads.
• Be particularly careful at dusk, during darkness, and in foggy or misty conditions when it is more difficult to judge speed and distance.
• Return to your original lane as soon as possible.
If your vehicle breaks down, move it off the carriageway on to the hard shoulder. If you have hazard warning lights, switch them on. Goods vehicles should display their warning triangles. 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 rejoining the carriageway, build up your speed first on the hard shoulder. Watch for a safe gap in the traffic before rejoining it.
If you become aware of an obstruction on the carriageway, use the roadside telephone to inform the Gardai. Do not attempt to remove it yourself.
Stopping and Parking
Stopping or parking is not permitted on Motorways. The only exceptions to this rule are:
• If the car breaks down.
• When you are signalled to do so by a Garda.
• In emergency situations (accidents etc).
For this reason remember, when undertaking a lengthy motorway journey as for example on UK or European motorways, you must make sure that your vehicle is fit to cruise at speed, has the correct tyre pressures for motorway driving and enough fuel, oil and water to at least take you to the next service area. You must also ensure that any loads carried or towed are secure.
Finally remember that the slip roads and link roads between motorways may include sharp bends.
Driving on Dual Carriageways
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.
• For overtaking.
• 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.
Junctions on Dual Carriageways
When turning right on a dual carriageway follow the normal procedure and move into the right hand lane. (If there is a deceleration lane move into this 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.
Crossing/Joining a Dual Carriageway
When you wish to cross a dual carriageway or join it by turning right, treat 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 traffic in the second half before you complete your crossing or turn. If the median is already blocked by another vehicle, WAIT until there is sufficient space available to enable you to clear the first half of the dual carriageway without stopping. If the median is too narrow to accommodate your vehicle, wait on the side road until you can clear both carriageways at once.
Check your mirror well in advance for traffic following behind. If the way is clear, give a right turn signal and, as soon as you can do so safely, 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 other vehicles to pass on the left. When a safe gap occurs in oncoming traffic, complete your turn so as to enter the left hand side of the road into which you are turning. Do not cut the corner. When necessary, as for example at a junction controlled by a STOP SIGN (at which you must stop) or YIELD RIGHT OF WAY sign, wait at the entrance to the junction until the road is clear.
At crossroad junctions a lot more awareness is necessary. 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.
Check for following traffic well in advance. 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" (which consist of patterns of criss-cross yellow lines) - require that you must not enter the box area unless you can clear it without stopping.
However, it is permitted to enter the box when you propose to make a right turn and are prevented from doing so only by oncoming traffic or vehicles waiting to make a right turn providing you are not causing an obstruction.
These box junction roadway markings may also be encountered at railway level crossings. Under no circumstances should a motorist enter the hatched area at level crossings unless he/she can exit without stopping. In general no junction should be blocked and it has often been said that a box junction is an insult to a good driver.
The provisions of the Road Traffic Acts and the Road Traffic (General) Bye Laws 1964 apply to traffic on roundabouts in exactly the same way as to all roads. In summary these require motorists to drive in a manner which takes account of the prevailing conditions, at a safe speed and having regard to lane discipline. The specific rule relating to roundabouts contained in Bye-Law 21 of the Road Traffic (General) Bye-Laws, 1964 requires that "a driver shall enter a roundabout by turning to the left".
The following should also be noted carefully:
• 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.
Right of Way
Where roads forming a junction are of equal importance you must yield to traffic on your right. In the case of 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.
A driver approaching a traffic light showing red must not proceed beyond the stop line at that light or, if there is no stop line, beyond that light.
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) save 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 that a flashing amber light at a pedestrian crossing means you must yield to pedestrians.
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 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) not-withstanding that another light facing the driver is showing red.
One way streets will be indicated by the traffic signs illustrated below - No Entry, or Proceed This Way. The No Entry sign may be accompanied by the roadway markings illustrated right. Lane discipline must be observed in one-way streets.
Take note of arrow markings on the road. You may drive on either side of a traffic refuge in a one-way street. Remember that at the end of a one-way street the road ahead, either to the right or left, may be two-way. This will be indicated by the TWO-WAY TRAFFIC SIGN.
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 Lane & Bus Only Streets
Bus lanes are sections of roadway reserved for buses providing a scheduled service (e.g. Bus Atha Cliath and Bus Eireann buses).
There are two types of bus lane:
• WITH-FLOW BUS LANES (which may also be used by taxis and cyclists): 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.
• 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 Bus Eireann or Bus Atha Cliath buses and no other traffic may use them.
BUS-ONLY STREETS: "Bus only streets" are streets which are reserved for the use of buses only. They may be entered by other traffic for the purpose of access only.
It is important to know the traffic signs which indicate the different types of level crossings which are signposted here.
At a gated but unattended level crossing, signposted by the sign shown opposite, stop short of the crossing:
• Get out of the vehicle.
• Look both ways and listen to ensure that no train is approaching.
• See that BOTH gates are open before starting to cross.
• 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).
On the approach of a train, twin red lights will commence to flash alternately, warning bells will sound and the barriers will descend. (The flashing red lights will be preceded by a steady amber light.)
At a few 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.
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Rules of the Road – FAQs
What is the difference between a stop sign and a yield sign?
Stop signs and yield signs are seen at all kinds of junctions. At a stop sign, your car must come to a complete stop. At a yield sign, you must slow down and give way to traffic coming from the right or traffic already on the junction. If there are no other cars then you can continue through the junction without fully stopping the car.
Can I ever drive in a bus lane?
Bus lanes are reserved for buses and taxis during peak traffic hours. These hours will be indicated on the bus lane signs. All cars, vehicles, and traffic can use these lanes outside of the advertised hours.
Can learner drivers use motorways?
No. Learner drivers are not allowed to drive on the motorway. Motorways are very dangerous places with high speed traffic. Motorways can only be used if you hold a full driving licence.