Driving in Ireland — sometimes you have to make up your own rules

If you've ever driven in Ireland you might well believe that there are no rules of the road only some general guidelines that you can ignore at your pleasure. Well, that's not quite true; there are rules of the road and they're even enforced, sometimes rigidly.

Yet recently the Dun Laoghaire County Council, which is responsible for the roads in the southeast part of County Dublin, created a situation that I don't think is covered by the actual rules of the road. They have established a 4‑Way Stop.

I know Americans (& Canadians too, I believe) are used to the concept of a 4‑Way (or All‑Way in some places), but I've never seen one here before. Generally speaking you will find round‑abouts here. And there. And just about everywhere.

The round‑about is just about ubiquitous. However, the intersection where this new 4‑Way Stop has been set up is, I'm guessing, not wide enough for a roundabout so the County Council just put up stop signs (minus the helpful "4‑Way") on the primary, busier road. They already existed on the smaller road.

However, nobody driving through here now seems to know how to treat the 4‑Way Stop. From what I've seen it's a mixture of (a) people on the bigger road just ignoring the new stop sign and (b) people on the bigger road slowing, sometimes stopping, but always acting like they have the right‑of‑way and blowing through before a car on the smaller road has a chance to move.

For all I know those who stop but act like they have the right‑of‑way could well be right. I could find no mention of 4‑Way Stops in the rules of the road. Still, when I pulled up there over the weekend I came to a stop and waited for the car on my left to go. {Note 'left' - I adjusted my 4‑Way instinct for driving on the left. Clever, no?}

What happened? Well, the driver looked stunned and took a bit of encouragement to go and the people behind me began tooting their horns as if I'd just waited for a pedestrian to cross in front of me as I made a turn off 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.

I was unfazed and smiled in the knowledge that I was the only one around who knew how to handle this 4‑Way phenomenon. I may even have shaken my head slightly in the way an adult might when a child has blurted out six or seven wrong answers to a question.

It was later that I started to wonder if I was actually right about how this Irish 4‑Way Stop should be handled. That thought and my fruitless search have wiped that smile right off my face. Still, this is just another one of the fun aspects of life here - getting a chance to make up your own "rule of the road."

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