Is winter driving in Ireland any different? Of course you know how to drive, but winter driving is more challenging than cruising at a warm beach resort. And winter driving in Ireland might test your limits (and patience) more than expected. So what can you actually expect? As corny as it sounds, expect the unexpected. To help you along, here are some sensible hints on winter driving in Ireland. And don't forget to check with the Department of Transport for general transport information, and definitely with Met Éireann for weather reports.
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Stay Put - Don't Drive
Ask yourself: Is your journey really necessary? If it is, you have no choice. If it isn't, it might not make sense to brave the winter conditions. For example, if you want to visit an attraction a few dozen miles away. It will take you time, be hazardous, and you might arrive to find the attraction closed due to bad weather.
This neatly ties in with the second part of this hint: Phone ahead to find out what you can expect. Your flight might be delayed or even cancelled or the attraction you planned to see might be closed, making your projected journey senseless.
Pro Tip: Check AA Roadwatch for traffic reports, which includes reports on airports and ferries as well.
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Expect the Drive to Take Longer
While under normal conditions you might be comfortably driving 40 to 70 miles an hour (depending on the road you use), in wintry conditions, your speed will be cut by a huge amount. Not only because of the weather conditions, but also because of other drivers. Be assured that you will find any number of "mobile roadblocks" hogging the whole road and going at a daring 15 mph in even the best conditions. It will not be easy to overtake these roadblocks safely.
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Fill Up the Tank and Carry a Spare
You might have enough petrol to make it to your destination and back under normal conditions, but the wintry weather might lead to longer detours or even getting stuck in a traffic jam. So fill up to the max and top it off when you are down to half a tank.
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Charge Your Phone
If you get stuck somewhere along the way, there may be no public phone and no inhabited house nearby. Without a mobile phone you are definitely lost. Check that your phone is fully charged and will work on an Irish network if you are from out of the country.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Clear Your Windows and Headlights
If you don't clear your windows completely, you are a danger to others and yourself. Aim for 360-degree vision if possible. Clear all windows before heading off. Also free your wing mirrors from ice. And while you're at it, also wipe clear your headlights.
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Make Sure Your Wipers Are Ready
This is especially important if you have a rental car, to save on costs many operators skimp on anti-freeze and simply top up (if at all in some cases) with water. This works for about 95% of the tourist season, but doesn't work in the winter. As soon as a cold spell hits Ireland, give your wiper fluid tank a sniff. If it smells like nothing, hit the nearest garage and buy some anti-freeze. A few Euro will be worth the opportunity to drive with a clean windscreen.
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Clear Snow Off Your Car
Don't stop with the windows and headlights if a substantial amount of snow has collected on your vehicle. Your heart will skip a beat when the snow from your hood suddenly takes off and immediately lands on your windscreen. You'll be blind. And the wipers might not cope.
Other drivers will thank you as well so they can avoid similar experiences when the snow from your car hits theirs.
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Accelerate or Brake Slowly
You might be a sporty driver, but you'll want to avoid wheels spinning when driving off and wheels locking up while you are heading with undiminished speed towards an intersection. Take it easy. Try driving off in second gear if your wheels start spinning in first gear. And try to slow down well in advance by using your motor, lower gears, and a judicious amount of braking.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Heed Other Drivers' Warnings
If Irish motorists are good at one thing, it is warning other motorists of dangers ahead. If you see oncoming drivers flashing their headlights or waving their hands, slow down and take it really easy for the next half mile or so. There might be a slippery patch, sheep in the middle of the road, or a speed-camera waiting.
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Always Expect the Worst - Especially Around a Bend
Irish roads are, for the most part, narrow and winding. Which means there might be surprises behind every corner. These could seriously alter your plans within a split second. Slow down if you can't see the full braking distance ahead. And remember that your braking distance on snow and ice will be considerably longer, up to ten times as long. You do not want it shortened by an unforeseen parked tractor ahead.
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Bring Warm Clothing and a Blanket
Say you are heading to the theatre in your Sunday best - this will not be very warm if you get stuck somewhere, have to walk, or simply wait. Just throw an extra pullover and/or coat, a blanket, and maybe a woolly hat in the boot. Some people even recommend taking a flask of hot water along. Anything to keep you warm.
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Use Public Transport
It might not be faster, but generally speaking it will get you there with less hassle and more safety. But don't press your luck, make sure public transport actually runs. Here are the most important websites you should check: