South Meath Driving School

Making Irish Roads Safer

We use a 1.4 litre Toyota Yaris.

    Dual control means the tutor has a clutch and brake pedal on the passenger side for demonstration or emergency purposes.
    This car is very easy to drive and allows good vision in all directions.
    Diesel engine and manual gears.
    Seats are adjustable to suit small or tall people. Wing mirrors electronically adjustable
    Perfect for learning to drive.

Posted by Louis on December 31, 2015

The Novice Plate and Attitudes

The N-Plate is displayed by ‘novice’ drivers after passing the driving test. It’s similar to the L-plate which was displayed while learning to drive. If the six months or a year or more in the harness of the L-plate appeared as long as the trimmings of the rosary in the past, then the introduction of the N-plate smote more than a few, especially those who have left age 30 or more behind.
The N-plate must be displayed for 2 years after passing the test.
Non-display of N – plates is an offence under road traffic law and is punishable by a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence. On becoming a fixed charge, the failure to display an N-plate will carry 2 penalty points, or 4 on conviction in court.
Drivers subject to displaying the N-plate has a lower threshold of 7 penalty points leading to disqualification. So, don’t incur penalty points, especially during those 2 years.
Novice drivers do not require to be accompanied by a qualified driver, like those subject to the L-plate. But note – a Novice driver does not qualify as an ‘accompanying’ driver.
Of course the purpose of those two plates is to highlight to other drivers that the learner/novice is in a special category and should be treated with the respect that they deserve. There I come to another point – a gentleman who did his driving lessons with me this year and duly passed his test (Class B) kept in touch and went to the trouble of sending an e-mail showing how other drivers regard N-plate holders. His email is as follows –

Hello Louis; hope you and family are well. I see you occasionally with a student driving through the streets of Trim and I recall our days working towards the driving test. Now that I have been a Novice for a few months I have a few observations you might find interesting.
The red “N” tag gets no respect from other drivers. I have lost count of the occasions when I have been motoring along at the posted speed on the Navan road or even driving through town when I have been passed by another motorist as though I was standing still. It is as though the “N” designation has become the new “L” driver status, as if to say Novice drivers don’ know what they are doing.
I have noticed a lot more “N” tags in recent days and I want to tell you, they are the best drivers on the road – with very few exceptions. I can see the rules of the road being applied and techniques that we discussed being implemented on a regular basis by Novices. Maybe after a few years some of the good practices will wear off onto some of the scofflaws on Irish roads.
There are more scofflaws than ever on the road, passing on curves, even with double solid lines in the center. Speeding is the biggest violation I see. The default speed limit for these characters is none, but they do settle out at about 100 km/h on the Navan Road and as much as 120 on the N2 and N3. Don’t these clowns ever get ticketed by the Gardai? For them, hatched areas on the road are invisible, creating a privileged passing zone just for them. Mind you, the rest of us are dutifully steaming along at 80 km/h and staying in our lanes.
Novice drivers do very well in roundabouts for the most part. They enter at the correct point, signal appropriately and exit where they should. I find that when I enter where I’m supposed to at the Dublin Road roundabout here, I am halfway through the turn and signalling to turn down to Longwood when the car behind me has pulled almost alongside, ready to pass me on his way to the Longwood Road. If I get halfway through the roundabout without turning left onto the Dublin Road, what do these drivers think I’m going to do?
And the last word on roundabouts is one of my old pet peeves; drivers entering almost any roundabout are entering too fast. I have seen several near-misses when these guys come into the roundabout so fast they nearly rear-end a car that is already in the turn before they get there. One day people are going to be killed. Will it make a difference?
This is a cry from the heart to those drivers who disregard the special position that Learner and Novice drivers should hold on public roads. As Ger says above, when some drivers see the L or N displayed they see red, probably. Why? They know the L&N driver keeps the speed limits, signals correctly and takes up correct positioning, especially approaching and on roundabouts – unlike the so called ‘fully qualified’ drivers. Folks, that is the real reason we had 190 coffins after road collisions last year and some are trying hard to catch up with that figure this year. Overtaking is reckless in too many instances. It’s the L&N drivers who are doing it correctly and being insulted, even taunted by those with a bad attitude.
There’s a cure for such behaviour. There should be a refresher course of at least five lessons for anyone who infringes like the above. Unfortunately they’re rarely caught until the crash happens. Then the innocent suffer as much or more than the perpetrator. And that will go on and on. Too bad. Don’t quit.
Ger’s reference to ‘scofflaw’ is not a word used much in these lands – it means one who holds the law in disregard; to ‘scuff’ the law was coined during prohibition in the US.

Posted by Louis on July 31, 2015

Cyclists to Pay the Penalty

When Minister Pascal O’Donoghue introduced legislation recently that finally catches up with wayward cyclists, I think he falls short in one area – that of compulsory insurance. A cyclist has many and varied legal responsibilities once the biker enters a public road. But the rider has no tuition, no health and safety training, no licence of any sort, no ‘nct’ and, of course, no insurance. Yet, from the time children have graduated from the nappy stage, they’re on little scooters, trikes and anything that gets them mobile whether on footpaths or accompanying daddy to the shop.
Before taking a bicycle out in public, it must be road-worthy, be fitted with brakes, a rear reflector and a bell during the daytime and, of course, a front and rear light at night. No more than driving a car, a cyclist must be ‘fit’ to ride the bike.
Better cycling should begin in low infants with a proper course delivered by a professional tutor. That should infuse a good attitude in the child and it stays the pace for life.
Recently, I met a cyclist pedalling out of Loman St., contra flow-style, into Mill St. and didn’t even bother to yield. Such pedaller should realise that last year 13 cyclists died on our roads. She wasn’t near the infant age, for she was 40 plus. There’s no need for fresh legislation to teach that lady a lesson. It’s there since the Road Traffic Acts of 1961, dangerous driving of a pedal cycle!
With cycling numbers increasing by thousands year on year, a new attitude is called for. Whether Pascal Donoghue has the answer remains with the jury. Some 36 offences have entered the books, seven of which are fixed charge notices with a price tag of 40 euro a shot, on the spot fine.
In some of his hurling commentaries, Micheal O Muirecheartaigh expressed great surprise at a Rabbitte chasing a Fox (Tipp v Galway) and I am prepared to get excited should I see dust rising at the sight of Gardai chasing a hapless cyclist whose least concern would be his braking power. The cyclist hasn’t to carry any identification and in urban areas these new laws could be harder to enforce than collecting water charges. Will the Garda be on a bike or in a patrolcar? The likes of Brendan Grace’s ‘Bottler’ would have a ball around Gardiner Street creating a chase and winning.
The new fixed notices are:
Riding without reasonable consideration, No proper lighting, Riding in a pedestrian street, Breaking traffic lights, Not stopping for a school warden and, Not stopping behind a Stop Line.

Cycle lanes are being laid or created by most urban Councils over the last few years. Trim has its fair share and the Navan Road area is a treat to even look at. Navan town has some that just run out of space before a chance of second breath, for instance the one opposite Pairc Tailteann isn’t much longer than a tandem but it creates an opportunity for cyclists to line up in front of motorists at traffic lights.
So why the necessity for new legislation? Well, cyclists have not been keeping any regulations, pushing forward at red lights and flitting through at half a chance. They ride on footpaths, overtake dangerously on the left, the odd one scrapes a pedal along the side of cars and just keep going despite such reckless damage. Many think there is no onus on them to yield at a pedestrian crossing, oft times weaving through children and older folk alike. The RSA advertisement showing correct positioning for a right turn is noteworthy, despite the wry smile of the lady rider for the camera.
Any cyclist can cause a lot of damage to a car whether by colliding with it or, as said, scraping the paintwork with a pedal. Such damage could amount to many hundred Euro, even a thousand. So why not have insurance? I believe that at least third party insurance should be compulsory; Pascal, you are not finished!
The Dutch are tops for pedalling, with almost as many bikes as people – well c.16.5 million. Nordic countries have a very high proportion too while China has 500m bikers. Ireland is catching on to the health aspects of the two wheeler as well as making it a work vehicle: between ’06 and ’11 biker numbers increased by about 10%. Hopefully sales can outpace automobiles as there are actually twice as many cyclists in the world than car drivers!

Posted by Louis on June 30, 2015

Back Roads and a Barn Dance

It’s holiday time and the schoolchildren are wearing their summer smiles of freedom as they look forward with giddy anticipation to eight weeks of lazing, sunshine and holidays. For the working parents, it can be a double edged sword. There’s minders and babysitters to be employed in many cases and grannies being called out of retirement. We want all those children back in school and colleges , come September still smiling. With all the grief that we see like that of the J1 students in California to the cruel fate of those in Tunisia of late, we need a little luck to survive the summer months.

The RSA are highlighting instances of accidents occurring as a result of drivers, especially mothers, turning around in their cars while driving, to correct or chastise children in the back seat, thus taking their own eyes off the road for more seconds than is safe. In a survey by a university in the US, it was found that children are 12 times a greater distraction to a driver than is using a mobile phone. In a 16 minute car journey with children, the drivers eyes were off the road for an average of 3 ½ minutes. So, don’t look back is the theme. A glance is all there’s time for. A small row in the back seat shouldn’t spill over into the next townland before the driver has time to pull in and referee the bout.

From Christian Doctrine days, remember the story of the two angels visiting Lot and his family in Sodom (Israel) and they stayed had a sleepover. At dawn, the angels told Lot to flee with his family to avoid the imminent disaster that was about to strike the city. “Flee for your lives and do not look behind you,” they told him. As the family exited the city, Lot’s wife’s curiosity got the better of her so she looked back at Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. Her salt statue still stands in Sodom city.  Drivers, be warned, expect children to create a stink in the back seat. It’s not the worst thing that can happen on a journey.

It maybe a case of ‘The old dog for the hard road and the pup for the Boreen’ but some of our boreens or back roads do us no favours. For it’s on those R242s also known as Regional Roads that danger lurks. It isn’t on the motorways and primary roads that most fatal crashes happen: no, it’s on the lesser roads. Such roads are too often poorly maintained, narrow, windy, potholed and unlit. To give credit where credit is due, the Fine Gael/Labour duet has done a good job on resurfacing many such roads. But, there are a few ‘howlers’ left, like the link from Peterstown ( Navan Road to Marcie’s (Newtown) Bridge.) How in the name of Moses, after spending a fortune of millions on the Trim-Dublin and Trim-Navan roads in the Noughties, could a section  like that passing Mary Donnelly’s cottage be left in its 1960s state. It would have been the loose change of the overall cost to complete the job and give locals who like shortcuts a little bonus.

This is a short link road, one that bears heavy traffic and the malaise continues over the bridge to the Dublin Road. When a costing is being prepared for main roads, how come such short but important sections are ignored? Incidentally, if I see correctly, there’s resurfacing afoot on the piece from the same bridge to the Dublin Road. Great if it is, and not that much about a General Election -yet.

Every local driver is too well aware of the mile of road from Balreask to Beechmount (approaching Navan from the Trim side.) There must be over a hundred manholes ‘astutely’ positioned in the left lane making them impossible to avoid. Some are drooping several inches below the level of the road surface. I’m reliably informed that many motorists’ aluminium wheels get cracked in those dipped manholes. Just inside those rows of manholes is a line of water grates. Then there’s the inevitable dipped tracks of pipe laying. It seems that the Co. Co. don’t inspect such dips in the road unless the public complain. Who’s in charge? In Gay Byrne’s heyday, he maintained that when the Council completed all the road markings – white lines, yellow lines etc., it was a sure sign that the road was about to get a new coat of tar. And Gay was no dozer.

With July upon us and talking about rural roads reminds me of the one in Inniskeen, which carried traffic of a different, if more light-hearted kind. One stanza may help smooth any such poor surfaces –


The bicycles go by in twos and threes –

There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s barn tonight,

And there’s the half-talk code of mysteries

And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.

Half-past eight and there is not a spot

Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown

That might turn out a man or woman, not

A footfall tapping secrecies of stone.


Kavanagh may have felt isolated on those Monaghan country roads, but surely the barn dance made good his loneliness!

Posted by Louis on January 20, 2015

An NCT Experience

Vehicles in Class B – cars, vans and jeeps – that are over four years old are required to have a NCT (National Car Test) certificate. This system of testing was introduced in the year 2,000. Peoples stories of their trials and experiences are akin to the Canterbury Tales, especially when fuelled by the comfort of a bar stool. Not all those tales are imaginary let alone exaggerated. Thus, I relate Jane’s tale.

Jane’s car failed the NCT (last year) due to ‘advanced corrosion’ of the brake pipes, the report stated. In the NCT manual under the heading, ‘A reason for failure: brake pipes,’ it states, ‘Perished, kinked, damaged or rusted to the extent that the pipe is pitted.’ According to the free encyclopedia, ‘Pitting corrosion or Pitting’ is defined as ‘a form of extremely localised corrosion that leads to the creation of small holes in the metal.’

I also discussed relevant matters with Jane’s mechanic and I viewed the brake pipes.

After the first test, the inspector told Jane that her car had failed because the brake pipes were in a state of advanced corrosion. That was the only area of failure. She returned her car to her mechanic who had prepared it for the test. He expressed great surprise at the cause of failure as the pipes were steel and in excellent condition according to him. He brushed up the pipes (two) and put a coat of black paint on them.

Jane took her car for test no. 2. It failed again for the same reason – corroded brake pipes. The inspector on this occasion told Jane that he had consulted with the inspector who examined the pipes during the first test. That appeared peculiar to Jane that such consultation should have happened.

It was back with the car to the mechanic again. He knew at that stage that the only option was to replace the steel brake pipes with what he termed copper pipes of a lesser quality. He handed Jane the two steel pipes which he had removed.

Then it was NCT no. 3 and, alas, the car passed. Jane then asked to speak with a supervisor who duly arrived and identified himself. She told him of her experience and produced the same steel brake pipes to him for his observation and examination. He stated that the pipes were in perfect condition and that the car should not have failed the test.

Jane then lodged a written complaint with the NCT Customer Services Department, giving an outline of what had happened.

The written reply from that Department outlined that Jane should have returned to the NCT centre with the car when her mechanic found the brake pipes to be in such good condition. It went on that “… NCTs provide a fair and simple approach for people who feel they have been incorrectly failed …” Jane says she was not advised of this procedure after the first test or at any other time.

The most amazing statement in that reply was that because the brake pipes had been removed from the car there was no proof of their originality. This was a clear indication that despite proof of continuity of possession of the pipes by Jane and her mechanic, the guys from “Customer Services” totally ignored such and showed prejudice in favour of the NCT inspectors report.

Even in a criminal trial evidence of continuity of possession is accepted by a Court of Law, but it’s ignored in these circumstances. The other glaring piece of silence chosen by the Customer Service Dept was that no reference was made to what the supervisor had stated when Jane showed him the pipes. ‘Why, we wondered?’

But Jane wasn’t cowed by the indifference shown her. She made a further written appeal to the NCT Independent Appeals Process, AA Ireland. Surely there would be justice forthcoming this time.

Their response was in a similar vein … “Unfortunately, our role is to assess the vehicle’s condition before remedial work has been carried out  …”

Again there was no reference to the fact that the brake pipes are in Jane’s possession or to the statement of the supervisor.

Yet there was another chink of light in the tunnel. They advised Jane that she could appeal her case to the District Court. And that’s where matters stand at present with plans for the next move. It’s a slow process and who will call ‘Checkmate’ is not easily guessable. Jane is unbowed.

Posted by Louis on November 26, 2014

Pedestrian Crossings

Pedestrian-controlled crossings in Ireland are many and varied. While they are now international in concept and design, they are only a generation or two old. The use of improbable animal symbols began in 1951 with the introduction of Zebra Crossings in England: gradually we followed suit, adopting most of the variations.

There are Pelican, Puffin, Toucan,  Pegasus and School crossings – as well as the better known Zebra.

A Zebra crossing is a path across the road marked with black and white stripes to give pedestrians the right over other traffic to cross. It is identifiable by black and white striped poles with flashing yellow beacons and zig-zag road markings for a distance of five meters either side of the crossing.

The Pelican is a signal-controlled crossing operated by pedestrians. After the red light shows, there’s flashing amber. The pedestrian still has right of way and, if there’s no pedestrian there, the motorist may proceed. At some Pelicans, there’s a bleeping sound to indicate to blind (or partially blind) pedestrians that they may cross.

The Puffin crossing hasn’t made its way here yet. Again it’s button-operated by the pedestrian to show a ‘green man.’

On Toucans, cyclists may ride across. In Ireland, it’s indicated by two parallel white lines about one meter apart, sometimes on a ramp. There are no flashing lights to indicate their presence.

The Pegasus is usually marked outside racecourses or areas where horses are trained. It’s popular in Scotland but not so in Ireland. It may be controlled by lights or just parallel white lines.

Pedestrian Refuges or traffic islands are placed in the middle of wider roads where there is no crossing point. Drivers have priority here. Pedestrians must not cross the second half of the road if there’s traffic passing.

Either side of the entry point for pedestrians at those crossings, iron railings are placed to stop people entering the road away from the assigned crossing.

Drivers should slow down, preferably to 2nd gears speed, on approaching those crossings. Indications to drivers of the presence of the crossings is usually marked by the ziz-zag lines as well as flashing lights or red/green lights operated by the pedestrian. Well, that is the case in most if not all advanced countries – except Ireland. And we have to go no further than Trim town to find serious anomalies in the presentation of those crossings.

At the exit from Railway Road at Leonard’s Corner, there’s two Toucan crossings almost side by side. There’s no advance Pedestrian sign to indicate such crossing.  And that’s just a few half meters from a Stop sign/Stop Line. So, a motorist must stop three times at that junction if Mattie Finnegan and Alice O’Toole happen to be crossing. Already, under Common Law, a pedestrian has right of way over a motorist at a junction. So what’s the need for a Toucan at all as in Leonard’s Corner exit. The Stop sign is very necessary there as motorists exiting to Athboygate need to stop because of the narrowness of the busy road there. Perhaps a more coherent demonstration to pedestrians of their right of way at junctions would be to put the Toucan (lines) right on the junction mouth (as part of the Stop Line.) It would be clearer to motorist and pedestrian.

The Zebra Crossing at Market St. is probably illegally constructed. My understanding is that there must be zig-zag lines painted on either side of the road for a distance of five meters from the crossing point. Those serve two purposes – to warn approaching traffic of the existence of the crossing and to prevent parking in that area. Cars, vans, jeeps, even lorries can now legally park right up to the crossing point at Market St, blocking out the view of a pedestrian to approaching drivers. There’s simply no space afforded to a driver, especially approaching from the Courthouse side, to see if anyone is about to cross. Even if such pedestrian steps onto the crossing and pauses, the approaching driver is blinded by vehicles parked there. How can a driver be culpable if a child runs across from behind a lorry and gets knocked over. It may mean more money in the parking meters for now. But what if a pedestrian is knocked down by a driver and the Insurer takes a civil action against the Council for negligence in their construction of the crossing?

The Zebra at the Post Office is another howler, set at a dangerous right angle position of a main street and opposite the busy junction of Watergate Street. It’s the busiest place in the whole town. For a driver exiting from Watergate St to Emmett St, it is fraught with danger. There’s no view into Market St until one moves out half the near lane, one has to let traffic from Emmett St pass, plus traffic turning right into Watergate St. Alas then, you get a break and it’s straight into the Zebra. My suggestion is to remove the Zebra from where it is and put a crossing at the mouth of Watergate St.

There’s a Yield sign at Mill St going towards Watergate St. It’s a leftover from a time when Loman St was a two-way road. It should have been removed with the new road layout.

The Zebra at the RC church is not safe for pedestrians walking out the side gate. Some just rush onto the crossing without a pause. It shouldn’t have been placed in line with the gate.

If the new road layout at Marcie’s has proven unpopular with local and stranger, then the junction at the by-pass with Newtown Road at White Lodge isn’t much better. There’s a new hatched area (those white stripes on the middle area of the road, into which it is illegal to enter) brought back to the Boyne side of the junction in the recent alteration. Coming from the Dublin Rd roundabout direction and attempting to turn into the minor road at about 5pm has been made very difficult, actually dangerous. I round the hatched area and, while waiting to let traffic from the Navan Rd to pass, the back of my car is partially in the outside lane. Well, it should be if one wanted to get smashed. The hatch should be removed altogether and replaced by a turning lane, narrow and short though it might be.

Heavy Goods Vehicles should be prevented from using this little narrow road to Newtown. It’s a Sli na Slainte route used by thousands of walkers, runners and streams of children enjoying the new river walk every day. It’s high time for proper regulation here with adequate signage preventing juggernauts from entering .

Have you noticed that there are zig-zag lines at the Zebra crossing approaching from Emmett St and at the Athboy Rd bypass near Lidl. I wonder why?