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