Ireland brings to mind imagery of leprechauns, shamrocks and potatoes, especially around this time of year. Folklore and food aren’t the only ways that Ireland differs from the United States, however; the rainy island is also home to narrow, winding country roads and roundabouts aplenty. In addition to the land and roads themselves, there are two more major ways in which driving in Ireland differs from driving in the United States. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re going to examine why people in Ireland drive so differently.
People in Ireland, like in many European countries and former colonies, drive on the left side of the road, with the driver’s side on the right side of the car. Why? It’s actually a practice left over from ancient civilizations, according to BBC America. Experts theorize that this practice developed out of safety; most people are right-handed, thus riding on the left side of the road would’ve allowed them to defend themselves against an enemy coming at them from the opposite direction.
Another major difference between Irish and American drivers is the cars they drive. Most cars in Ireland are manual transmission (AKA stick shift) according to TripSavvy.com, IrishCarRentals.com, and DiscoveringIreland.com. Quite the opposite is the case here in the U.S., where 97% of CarMax customers drive automatic cars and less than 3% of the cars bought in the U.S. are stick shift as of 2016. This difference exists in part because Americans are more likely to multitask while they’re driving than Europeans are, according to Lauren Fix, the Car Coach. This idea is backed up by a 2013 press release from the CDC which states that “69 percent of U.S. drivers talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed compared to 21 percent of drivers from the United Kingdom.”
Using your left hand to switch gears while navigating the tight, twisting and most likely rainy roads of Ireland probably sounds like a nightmare to most Americans. The views of the Celtic countryside, however, are said to be well worth the preparation. For more information on driving in Ireland, visit IrishCentral.com.