With the roads starting to get busier we thought it might be time to share some ‘rules of the road’ for drivers more used to crawling through a traffic jam than waiting for a sheep to cross…
Single-track roads are an every day occurrence for most of us in the Highlands and Islands, but they are a phenomenon which an amazing number of visiting motorists find difficulty in coping with.
These two-metre-wide strips of tarmac are really quite simple to use — their safe operation relies mainly on caution and courtesy. Passing places are provided every few hundred yards and these should be used to allow oncoming traffic to pass. Indicate, pull in (to your own side of the road, even if the passing place is on the other side), wave, and make a friend. The same rule applies to cars coming up fast behind you—pull in at a passing place and let them past if they appear to be in a hurry. Visitors who ignore the signs saying “Use passing places to permit overtaking” are a source of some frustration to local drivers accustomed to moving about the island on emptier out-of-season roads. And frustration on the roads can lead to accidents.
However, the single-track road and the frustrated local are minor inconveniences compared to the hazard presented by sheep. Let’s be clear on this one—they are not to be regarded as cuddly, friendly, woolly jumpers with a magnetic attraction for car bumpers. Treat them as devious, plotting, assassins hired by some crooked breakdown merchant to force cars off the road. In short, they are a menace. Reduce your speed when approaching sheep. They have absolutely no road sense and, as a result of years of roadside breeding, they are chronically oblivious to car horns and flashing lights.
If you are unfortunate enough to hit an animal (and many are) you should of course stop and check its condition. You are obliged to inform the police and if the animal is injured it is only humane to do so. Another thing to remember, if you bring your dogs with you on your holiday, is to keep them under control around sheep.
On legal matters it is best to remember that the country bobby and his bicycle were divorced years ago. The police enforce motoring laws as diligently and strictly as anywhere else in the UK, and being on holiday is not an acceptable plea if you are caught breaking the rules.
Holidays are about a change of pace, so enjoy your driving and be mindful of other road users. Have a nice trip.