I love to go for an aul drive. Hit the minty highway as my Da used to say I have happy memories of my Dad letting down the back seat for us to sleep after a day trip to Dublin. In those days Dublin seemed a lot further away. It wasn’t something you’d do on a whim. It took planning and time and you’d make sure the neighbours knew you were going because who knew if you’d come back. I remember my father triple checking, the oil, and the wheels to set about on our adventure to the big smoke. We knew we had hit Dublin when you’d see the big ball and then the McDonalds sign on the long mile road. Kilkenny didn’t have a McDonalds at the time so it was as good as being in a foreign country.
My grandfather used to bring us on a drive out the Kells to buy batch bread and as we picked the middle out of the loaf there was this bridge he’d drive over at speed and his head would hit off the roof and our arses lifted off the seats and we just thought he was the coolest most daring Grandad anyone had ever! So in essence all my childhood associations with driving were fantastic. None of us had car seats it was squeeze in as many children as you can. My Uncle even had a hole in the floor of his car that we’d all fight to sit over so that we could watch the road fly by. We knew no danger.
We are not the worst in the world for deaths on our road and we have greatly improved. In the year I was born there were over 500 deaths down to 165 the year before last but the reason I thought to talk about driving and roads has got to do with the way the deaths are reported. It’s only recently that I heard a news report mention the actual road itself. I drive the road from Kilkenny to Abbeyleix a lot and there are large sections of road without so much as a cat’s eye to guide the way. It’s so dark that drivers who don’t know the road really well crawl at a snail’s pace which can be equally as dangerous as driving too fast.
We are a wet country… it rains a lot!!!! But it seems to come as a shock to our roads when a drop of water hits them and instead of letting it slide off and soak in somewhere. the roads like to gather the fallen rain in large amounts. Are they worried that driving windy roads in the dark with no illumination wasn’t enough of a challenge… they thought let’s throw in a few water hazards while we are at it.
They say that driving while tired is nearly as bad as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But once you get on a motorway in Ireland you could hit France before you could find somewhere safe to pull in and get a rest. There are various junctions in Kilkenny where the road markings are wrong or contradict what I learned in my rules of the road book all those many years ago. It really frustrates me.
The placements of pedestrian crossings are just laughable. At one junction you have to turn right from being perched on a hill only to turn to be hit bang in the face with the possibility of a mother her six kids and two dogs trying to cross the road.
I get that we are all human. Most of us have made what could be classed as a silly mistake, taken our eyes of the road or pulled out when we shouldn’t have but the state of our roads are a disgrace. Road markings are missing unfinished or simply worn away. I sometime wonder if the people who plan and construct the roads have ever been in a car in their lives. To prevent accidents you have to put the best of precautions in place. Sometimes it just feels to me like the roads are being designed to be against us.