Ireland – Near Traffic Catastrophe – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Ireland – Near Traffic Catastrophe – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but I have had more run ins with danger in the month I have been in Ireland than I have in many years. It really comes down to the way the Irish drive on the opposite side of the road. One thing to note about the streets in Ireland is that they have many roundabouts. They seem to be the preferred method over stop signs at intersections.

In Louisburgh, there are quiet streets of houses that have sidewalks and are perfectly normal and similar to home. I do fine on those. Even Main Street is not horrible, mostly because their traffic is not even something I would consider traffic back home. It is to be expected in such a small town.

[An example of the streets in Louisburgh]

The real trouble started when we spent more time in larger towns. My friends and I took a taxi into Castlebar, the largest town in County Mayo. Everything was going great, we had spent our time wandering around, jumping from shop to shop and stopping for food whenever we got hungry. We came to a roundabout to find more places to scope out and I had somehow ended up at the front of our little group. This street had a median, so we safely crossed to the median. Then, I looked to our right because I still forget about the opposite side of the road driving. Thinking it was clear, I got one foot on the street when my friend yanked me by the arm back onto the median. I was bewildered and finally looked to my left and saw the car that had been trying to enter the roundabout, staring at me. Luckily, the driver seemed very pleasant and allowed us to cross the street after that. I was mortified that I had nearly done something that was so simple to avoid. If I had turned my head the tiniest bit to the left, I would have seen the car coming. It just never occurred to me. In my head, there had been no consideration of the fact that their traffic enters from the left.

It shook me up, I will admit. Every time that I think I am getting used to the differences between the US and Ireland, I do something incredibly silly like attempt to walk into traffic. I insisted on walking at the back of the group after that, not trusting myself to remember to look the correct way.

It certainly taught me a lesson, that is for sure. When we were in Dublin, I made sure to look both ways twice before even thinking of crossing the street. I know I need to keep vigilant about this because it would be just my luck to make it through the entire trip without being kidnapped or murdered (too many people brought up the movie Taken when I announced I was studying abroad) to be hit by a car. It does not help that I have noticed the Irish tend to drive very fast. Combined with their winding roads, it seems very dangerous to me. I also just don’t like driving in general though, so perhaps I am not the best judge of that.

The speed with which the Irish drive is extremely apparent when we walk to the beach that’s about a fifteen-minute walk away. The way to get to the beach does not have any sidewalks, so we keep an ear out for cars coming. When we hear one, we move from a mass of people at the side of the road to a single file row, reminiscent of ducklings. The cars speed by, whipping our clothes around us and it always feels close enough to make me catch my breath. We tend to trip over each other if we stay in a row like that, so as soon as the car passes, we spread out again, only to repeat it as soon as the next car passes us by.

[The road to the beach. Along both sides run low trenches full of water, so tripping isn’t advisable]

I have a feeling that I will get used to cars on the other side of the road around the end of May. Then I will return home and have to readjust all over again. Here’s to hoping I refrain from accidently stepping into traffic again.

Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors ( This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under Allison Brennhofer, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

10 responses to “Ireland – Near Traffic Catastrophe – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. Michaela Campbell

    This sounds like a terrifying experience! It is an understandable mistake however, sometimes we become so comfortable in a new place, we forget the new habits we have been trying to learn! It is nice to know that the care turning had a driver that was paying attention as well, and that your classmates had an eye out too. I am sure if you all continue to keep an eye out for each other, you will all come home in one piece with amazing stories and experiences to talk about. I hope the driving changes in Ireland become easier for you as you continue to travel in the country!

  2. Greta

    Great article Allison! It’s fascinating to see how things are so different or not different at all when you leave home. Like you said it was weird driving on the opposite side of the road. And for them that’s normal and if they came to the US they would think it’s weird here because we drive on the “wrong side of the road”. Also, we don’t always realize how we tend to get so comfortable when we settle down in a place that we like so when we leave home everything feels so different.

  3. Hanna McLevish

    That would definitely take some getting used to. It would be really strange to see a car on what seems like the wrong side of the street. Even though you have been there over a month now, it is still hard to get used to something that has been so constant in your life before. In class we talk a lot about how people hate change, they like something that is constant, and this would be a perfect example of something that is different in Ireland.

  4. McKenna Holman

    When I was in England I noticed that roundabouts are very popular, which was interesting to me because I’m from NE Wisconsin and they’re pretty popular here, too. However, since I’ve been in out of the area for the past two years for college I haven’t noticed another roundabout outside of my area! I’m not a huge fan of them, seeing as they only seem to be getting larger and larger with more lanes! Have you noticed that streets are a lot smaller also? That was something that threw me off when I was in England. I always felt like I was entirely too close to the car next to us when driving!

  5. Ryan Sauve

    These are the things that I would never imagine to think about when I travel into another country. I can imagine myself accidentally traveling down the wrong side of the road or anything of that nature. I thought that you looking one way to see if traffic was coming was indicative of your instincts growing up. Why would you even need to look the other way? Thankfully, you friend was there to save you. I wonder if this has ever happened to someone crossing the street around the world, simply because their instincts told them to look the wrong way. I also have heard that the cars drive very tightly and was wondering if you think that is any different than in the United States. The culture of driving is quite the interesting one you wouldn’t typically think of.

  6. Hannes Stenström

    I hope you manage to get through the whole trip unscathed, despite the aggressive driving of the Irish people! I can imagine that it’s really difficult to change one’s mindset about this kind of things. After all, we’ve grown up with cars driving on one side of the road, and then all of a sudden you come to a place where it’s the complete opposite. My brother lived in New Zealand for a year and he struggled a lot with this too. In other words, you are definitely not alone in this precarious situation! I hope you can enjoy your time in Ireland even if it means be very cautious at every road crossing!

  7. Jacob Kallenbach

    Hello Allison,
    I really enjoyed your article and stories of some of your time in Ireland. I would have to agree that at first it is confusing when walking through Dublin and worrying about all of the traffic. I spent nearly three weeks staying in the same place though Dublin, and at first it was challenging, but after a few days I got the hang of it. We did mostly walking because of the great location of our Hostel, but we would have to take a bus to certain spots of the city that were farther away. I liked the bus system in Dublin. The drivers were always friendly and were always willing to talk and explain. All part of that amazing Irish hospitality I suppose.

  8. Madina

    Hello Allison!

    Thank you for sharing this interesting experience! I do understand how bewildering that must have been! As an international student, I tend to say that the little cultural differences are harder to adapt to than the larger ones. I am from Ethiopia and in the capital where I grew up, traffic is insane. Especially for someone who is not accustomed to it. When I first got to the US i was always very cautious even on streets that were empty. My friends would always tell me that “I have a right of passage” and that no one would run me over. This was reassuring but as you pointed out, it takes time to get used to!

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