Archives for posts with tag: Driving

It’s been some thirty-odd years since I last drove in France. I managed to correct this shortcoming over the summer with some long distance and local driving on holiday. In this post I offer you 7 observations about the experience.

  • They drive on the right (I’m starting with the obvious one. It pays to remember this one at all times…)
  • Their road signs are excellent. Why can’t every country adopt a visual picture that shows a 130 below a sun, and a 110 below some rain, so you know what speeds you can drive in what weather?
  • People obey the speed limit almost all the time. This might be something to do with the frequent speed cameras and the zealous gendarmerie
  • They don’t signal you in, flash you in, or wave you in, to allow you to pull out, or across or in front of them
  • They don’t acknowledge you when you signal them in, flash them in, or wave them in. I don’t know why this is. For me it completes the transaction and is simple good manners
  • They ignore or don’t see your offer and simply pull out, across or on front of you.  I don’t know why this is either
  • They touch park with gay insouciance

I don’t know if this correlates with your experience, but it certainly correlates with mine :-).


Signs on the road – literally painted onto the road, as opposed to ones on a pole which itself is on or by the road, if you get my drift – confuse me. Why they are upside down? Or perhaps it’s back to front?

The huge majority of people in the western world read from top to bottom and left to right. We start top left and we finish bottom right. Yet road signs start from the bottom left and finish top right, perhaps assuming that you read the nearest word first and the word above it second.

Let me give you an example. When I’m driving and I come across this sign on a road:




I read it ‘ahead, school, caution,’ rather than its intended meaning, the much more helpful ‘caution, school ahead.’

Perhaps the best solution is to arrange the words in the same order as they currently are, but further spaced apart, so as I’m driving I read the words separately, rather than together, and I’m less inclined to treat them as one clause and start at the top.

It’s the little things…





There’s a new-ish kind of road sign on Irish roads. I like it. The sign combines a speed camera and an instruction.

When you’re travelling along a road with a certain speed limit, the sign shows you the speed you’re going. If you’re going in excess of the speed limit, which is also displayed in the sign, the speed shows red. When you dip under the speed, it shows green. Crucially, after it shows you your speed in green it then posts a ‘thank you’, also in green.

These are signs with manners. They thank you for obeying their rules. But, crucially, they remind you about the speed limit in a creative way and also encourage you to drive below the limit. You comply, and you get your reward, someone’s – or something’s – thanks.

I have no data on this, but I would imagine that these new-ish signs are effective, certainly more effective than other kinds. Until, perhaps, we tire of the novelty factor. But will we ever tire of someone using good manners?

What is it with mini-roundabouts? You don’t have them in the US as far as I can remember, favouring instead your 4-way stop junctions and that kind of thing. People’s ability to navigate roundabouts varies inversely according to their distance from the capital city. Out here in the country in the west of Ireland, they’re hilarious entertainment.

At mini-roundabouts with 4 or more approaching roads, people either wait at them politely, even though they might have the right of way, or else they blithely head on through without a care in the world. Farmers are legendary for this, on the rare occasion they venture out from their place of work.

Then you get mini-roundabout that were formerly T-junctions. At this treacherous kind of a roundabout, cars plough across the top of the T at great speed, in both directions, whereas those approaching the T edge up timidly to avoid being totalled, even though they might have the right of way.

So here, dear reader, I offer my rules for mini-roundabouts. By way of disclaimer, I should say that I have no idea if these are the highway code rules for your particular country, so don’t take them as gospel, but they make sense to me anyway. Note that they only apply to places where you drive on the left :-).

1) A mini-roundabout is like a proper roundabout, except that a proper roundabout might have 2 lanes, so your lane position is important.

2) A mini-roundabout is not like a large roundabout with traffic lights on it, or even a huge roundabout with lights on it, or a ‘huge-about’ as my daughter calls them. You simply obey the lights at these kinds of roundabouts.

3) You approach the mini- roundabout and give right of way to the cars on your right. So, if a car to your right is on the roundabout, or is close to the roundabout and if you pulled out you’d cause it to slow down, let the car pass and wait until the road to the right is clear.

4) Once on the roundabout, signal as you’re about to exit the roundabout. This lets the person know who’s giving right of way to you that you are coming off and they can get on.

5) If you don’t use your indicators, or if you keep your indicator on as you pass one or more exits, folk don’t know what you’re doing and will hate you for it.

Being a good driver is as much about communicating to other drivers what you’re doing as it is watching for what they’re doing. Pretend other drivers are your customers. You want to please them and improve their lives, right?