Friday, July 27, 2007
Threading the Needle
The drawback to Ireland's phenomenal economic growth over the past decade is that the basic infrastructure that we take for granted in the United States has not been able to keep up. This is most clear to those who have to take to the roads and drive a car in Ireland. This was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
The government is building and expanding the roads with great speed and enthusiasm, but Ireland is a big country, and once you are outside of Dublin (or the other larger cities) you find yourself on narrow two lane roads that were designed for the traffic of two decades ago, when few Irish had cars. They have recently added traffic circles at every corner, and the local motorists seem to find these akin to a fast paced wild video game.
Now that everyone has an automobile, they drive them with great speed and enthusiasm. The speed limit on the skinny and curvy roads is 100 Kilometers per hour, which is fast once you consider that the on coming traffic is also going at equally high speed with only a thin white line in the middle. Also, there are no shoulders on these roads, so the slightest miscalculation of a turn and one could easily end up off the road or worse.
Ireland was my first experience driving on the left side of the road. I never got used to going to the opposite side of the car, and more than once found myself seated in the passenger side with my keys in hand. Hmmmmm. Ooops.
With the crazy roads and even crazier drivers I felt that I was putting my life, and the safety of my family, into the hands of all the other drivers who were going the other direction (an often believed that this faith was misguided!). They seemed confident in their ability to navigate their cars at high speeds through the winding countryside. The truckers and tour buses are what really scared the hell out of me, as their vehicles were wider than the lanes, but this fact did not seem to slow them down.
I had no choice, I had to drive on each day toward our next destination. The trip was an adventure, and like any good quest, there comes with it some anxiety and fear. In the end, we survived (although each county had road signs posting the number of head-on-collision deaths in the past four years, which did not build confidence!) and the frightening part of driving in these conditions just became part of my Irish experience.
Have A Great Day.