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Maybe the most challenging aspect of driving in Ireland is the rain. Even the natives struggle to get to grips with downpours, poor visibility and frequent floods. As a tourist you'll be even more disadvantaged, lacking local knowledge that will, for instance, help you to gauge the depth of a spreading puddle. So here are some helpful hints:

Be Prepared

The national newspapers carry weather reports and predictions and will give flood warnings and feature reports on major road closures. Unfortunately they are 'old hat' by the time you read them.

More up to date would be reports on national radio stations like RTÉ or Today FM. Weather reports are usually given with the news on the hour (or half hour). Road traffic reports are less frequent.

The most recent information can be found on the internet - for weather information surf to the Met Eireann website. Traffic information is continuously updated at AA Roadwatch - which also has an excellent route planner in case you have to reschedule.

Check the Car

Essentials to check are:
Tires - are all five properly inflated? (check the spare as well). And the tools to change a tire.
Gas - hit the nearest station to fill the tank before you head out.
Lights - not do much to see but to be seen.
Windscreen wash - driving on wet roads can be extremely dirty business and you'll hit the 'wash-wipe' button very often.

Charge Your Cell Phone

If you carry your cellphone with you, make sure its fully charged and that you have call credit (if on prepay). It might be your lifeline in the middle of nowhere. Maybe invest in an in-car-charger?

Do Not Trust Your Satellite Navigation

Satnav devices are dumb - they'll lead you right into the maelstrom if you trust them blindly. There currently is no system that will incorporate road closures or spot flooding in real time. Never assume that because your satnav sends you down a road it will be safe. Always drive slower in heavy rain, be extremely alert and watch for tell-tale signs of danger.

Observe Oncoming Traffic

Spare a second to observe oncoming drivers, they might give optical signals that are meant to warn you. If for instance you pass a motorist that is slowly waving his hand up and down, he might advise you to slow down. This might be due to a puddle of epic proportions, cattle or debris on the road or a speed-trap.

Slow Down

Ireland's roads are not built perfectly flat and not designed to be self-draining at all times. That means that a film of a few millimeters of water will often stay on the surface for long times. This is where the danger of aquaplaning starts. Slow down, especially in poor visibility.

Never Underestimate a Puddle

What looks like a normal, albeit large, puddle to you may conceal anything from a bend in the road to a king-size pothole. Drive slow and you'll be safer. And minimize the risk of water damage due to spray.

Floods: Stop

Only locals know what actually is hidden by a flood - so you might be heading straight for a riverbed on what you thought to be a safe course. There also is the danger of the floods being quite deep. This will, sooner rather than later, lead to your car's electrical or mechanical systems interacting with water in several interesting ways.

Take a Detour

Unless you are totally sure that you can make it on your planned route without risk, you should consider a safer detour if possible. Again local knowledge is priceless here. Or a decent road map, much more practical than satnav systems when planning a safe route on higher ground.

The beauty of driving in Ireland is that you are rarely on the one and only road from A to B. The 'back roads' might take you there as well; via C and Mother McCre'`s cottage (take a left where her cow died in 1964).

Finally - Is Your Journey Really Necessary?

If you decide to drive in bad weather, you are putting yourself, your passengers and other road users in danger. Only to arrive at a sight you can't properly enjoy or even see.