>I’ve been a latent sufferer from road rage for years. Y’see I like driving a lot – it’s part of what defines me, I feel – behind the wheel of a big, powerful car, devouring the road as the miles whizz by. Never driving terribly fast, of course – I tend to stick to the speed limits except when overtaking, which, though not strictly legal, is fair enough I reckon.

Passengers in my car are, from time to time, treated to expressions of anguish and rage as I travel around, especially in Nenagh. The standard of driving in Ireland is appalling it has to be said, but particularly so in Nenagh, where certain peculiarities of the physical layout of the town make driving especially unpleasant.

Take the “virtual” roundabouts, for instance. There are two of them in Nenagh at key junctions. Neither of the junctions are really wide enough to facilitate the roundabouts, but there they are nonetheless. It has to be said that they are a marked improvement on what was there before – traffic lights. Before it was bypassed some years ago, Nenagh used to be on the N7, the main road from Dublin to Limerick. On Bank Holiday weekends, the traffic through the town was incredibly heavy, making it next to impossible to drive from one part of the town to the other (and Nenagh ain’t a big town). Then some bright spark realised that part of the problem was the sequencing of the traffic lights – it just couldn’t cope with the increased traffic flow. Mr. Bright Spark came up with the wonderful idea of switching off the traffic lights at weekends and, hey presto, the traffic flowed – slowly but smoothly. Once everyone realised that the lights were off, they approached the junctions with caution and common sense. Everyone got through the junctions and I’ve never heard of any serious accidents occurring as a result of Mr. Bright Spark’s brainwave.

So the next logical step was to remove the traffic lights, which was done a couple of years ago. Initially, the roundabouts were denoted by low, circular plastic domes, like big hubcaps in the centres of the roundabouts, but these disappeared within a few weeks. Now there’s a large circle painted in each centre.

The warm and fuzzy afterglow of Mr. Bright Spark’s moment of inspiration quickly faded when some clueless dimwit decided that what was “really” needed to enhance the roundabouts were pedestrian crossings. Take the “virtual” roundabout at the T-junction on Pearse Street and Kickham Street. Taking the centre of the roundabout as, well, the centre of the roundabout, each “branch” radiating from the centre has a pedestrian crossing, situated possible no more than 10m from the centre in each direction. That’s very tight, as I’m sure you will agree, and makes for slow progress. It is not uncommon for one to have to stop at, say, Crossing A to let a pedestrian cross Kickham Street and then, after turning left into Pearse Street to have to stop at Crossing B to let that same pedestrian cross Pearse Street. This would be bad enough if the pedestrian in question was doing the decent thing and thinking, “ooh, I’m holding up that good-looking young man in that lovely Lexus – I’d better hurry along and let him go on his way.” But no. Pedestrians, when approaching the crossings in Nenagh, seem to slip into a parallel universe where they drift (rather than stroll) across the road, all the while wondering “did I turn off the immersion?” or “should I have eaten that tin of dog-food?” in a state closely resembling somnambulism.

When I was growing up, there was a slew of road safety short films on the telly. One that I remember particularly well was the film which clearly stated that before using a pedestrian crossing, the pedestrian was supposed to put one foot on the road to signal her/his intent to cross. I seem to be the only person in Ireland who remembers that short film, and quite clearly, nobody has told anybody in the last forty years that you can’t just waltz onto a zebra crossing as if you’re the Sultan of Brunei. Because that’s what they do – they don’t even look up to see if any car is approaching – it’s a case of “oh, there’s the bank, must get some cash from the Drinklink machine”. About two years ago, as I was approaching the above-mentioned Crossing B, this rather large, hair-straightened, fake-tanned, bottle blonde with an arse the size of Lichtenstein, chatting with her mate, decided that now was the time to cross the street to buy a packet of fags. So she stepped out in front of me just like that. I had to jam-on the brakes in order to avoid a collision. All I got for my trouble was “the look” (insolence mixed with aggression, as if to say “go on, I dare ya. Hit me. A nice compo claim would pay for two weeks in Ibiza”). Good job I didn’t hit her – her enormous posterior would’ve made shite of the front of the Lexus and she’d’ve hardly felt a thing…

So, between the pedestrian crossings and the articulated trucks trying to negotiate the implausible junction between Pearse Street and McDonagh Street and the loolahs with the Burberry caps doing 180s in the middle of the road with their stupid, souped-up Civics, you’ll understand that I’m not a big fan of the “virtual” roundabouts…

…but that’s not what I’m here about today.

At the end of the school run, having passed the library, the entrance to Ormond Keep and the pedestrian crossing (and speed bump) at the boy’s primary school, one then comes upon an “offset” crossroads (not sure if I’m explaining this properly, but the turns to the left (Melrose) and right (the New Line) are not directly aligned to each other). Anyhow, at the crossroads I normally turn right to head down towards Tesco and then out the Borrisokane Road to go onto the Peripherique

…normally, that is, except for this morning. The traffic had stopped for some unknown reason and there were two cars ahead of me. There are some extensive roadworks being carried out at the moment about 200m straight through the crossroads on the Dromin Road. I thought that there might be a traffic jam up ahead which had extended back towards me. A certain amount of jigging-about in my seat and peering intently into the distance indicated that there was no traffic jam. What I did see was some lady in a Laguna coming off the New Line very tentatively onto the crossroads itself. I just got the impression that the lady was not at all sure that she should be doing what she was doing…

…and the only reason she was doing what she was doing was that the clown (politeness prevents me from calling the person a Total Fecking Gobshite) two cars ahead of me, who was supposedly driving straight through the crossroads and who had the right-of-way, decided that today was the day to be polite to other road users. So he/she/it just stopped in the middle of the road and let Laguna Lady through the junction. Now, I wouldn’t have minded if the road ahead of the TFG had been jammed with traffic and the said person was trying not to block Laguna Lady’s progress. But no – there was no blockage. The TFG just stopped the car in the middle of the road and effectively said, “after you, m’dear…”

And to make matters worse, the TFG then turned his/her/its attention to the lady in the Peugeot coming from the Melrose side of the crossroads and decided to wave her along too.

At this, I lost the rag completely. I pulled the car out on the wrong side of the road, and just as Madame Peugeot turned through the crossroads, I jammed-on the brakes, blared the horn (not at Madame Peugeot (other than to warn her of my presence on the wrong side of the road) but at the TFG) and then proceeded to turn onto the New Line, using all 240 of the Lexus’ bhp to spin the rear wheels spectacularly and noisily. I high-tailed it home before the shock of the incident hit me.

I’m not proud of what happened. Nobody got hurt, but they could’ve so easily. My apologies to Madame Peugeot.

But the point I want to make (“at last”, sez you) is this. There are formal rules governing the use of the roads and highways. But there is also an unspoken code whereby other motorists have a legitimate expectation that you, as a motorist, will assert your own rights on the road. And not act like the clowns in Ireland who, when on “proper” roundabouts (thereby having the right of way to proceed through the roundabout), decide to stop on the roundabout to let someone else (who doesn’t have the right of way) onto the roundabout. Just imagine the scenario. The clown is free to enter the roundabout, as there is no traffic either on the roundabout already or approaching from the right. Clown enters the roundabout. You are behind Clown, and as there still is no traffic approaching from the right and as Clown is in motion, you feel safe to follow. But then Clown decides “oh, there’s Mrs. Smith. She wants to get onto the roundabout”, so Clown stops and you plough into Clown’s tail – with no leg to stand on as the following car is generally deemed to be at fault for travelling too close to the car in front. Even though if Clown had kept going, you would have been a perfectly safe distance behind.

I mean, Jesus Christ, how thick can people be?

Rant over…