Miss W’s blog: Ibiza Driver’s Ed

If, like me, you’ve been driving on Ibiza’s roads this past week, you’ll have noticed there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of vehicles on the road. Which, of course leads to more traffic, pollution, roadblocks, time delays and less parking overall. Good times. As Ibiza has gotten more and more populated in recent years, I’ve gotten quite used to the annual increase in traffic on the roads. I’ve stopped moaning about it (unless I’m late to a meeting and the traffic is to blame) and consider it just a fact of Ibiza life nowadays – there’s no going back to the ‘good old days’. In fact, I find Santa Eulalia road journey akin to meditation these days.

There is one thing that I feel needs to be addressed in relation to all these extra cars however, and that is the extreme number of BAD DRIVERS on our roads right now. In the last week alone I have been cut off (multiple times!), almost crashed into, stuck behind someone texting, swerved to avoid someone on the phone, been driven out of my lane, been aggressively taken over by someone at super high speed, been beeped to go at a traffic light not even a second after the light turned green and the list goes on. Do you know what ALL of these cars had in common? Each and every one of them bore the tell tale sticker on the rear window that it was a hire car.

I’m not going to complain about the ridiculous amounts of hire cars on the road and how the island’s infrastructure simply cannot handle it. We know that, and until the government does something about it, there’s not much we can do (except stay off the roads!). I’m not going to complain about the crazily incompetent public transport system that is in place around the island that means holidaymakers have no choice but to hire cars. It is what it is, and again, until there’s an official change, there’s not much we can do. Ibiza is a beautiful island and as a rule, you need your own transport (or private driver) in order to see as much of it as you can. I get it. In fact, I encourage it.

But – and it’s a big but – dear hire car drivers of the island, I IMPLORE you to drive safely! Today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Because if you don’t, well, there might not be a future to speak of. I would like to hijack this week’s blog to host a little basic Ibiza Driver’s Ed class, and I strongly suggest you all pay attention – it won’t take long. First of all… please slow down. You’re on holiday. There shouldn’t be any rush. Stick to the speed limit and enjoy the experience of driving across the island – the countryside is spectacular at this time of year and going 100 kilometres an hour means all those fields blooming with wild flowers will just be a blur. And speaking of kilometres… our speed limits are set with these, not miles (though if anything, mistaking those two should make you go slower – I’m just mentioning it to be give you all the info you need!).

Given the amount of British tourists who grace our shores each year, I’d be willing to bet that a very large percentage of hire car drivers are driving on what they consider to be the wrong side of the road. I too come from a left-hand drive country, so many many years ago, when I first arrived in Ibiza, I was in the same boat (or right-handed car as the case may be). I understand how awkward it feels. While the process is pretty much the same and it is super easy to pick up, there’s no denying your spatial awareness is impaired when you’re on the other side of the car, and road, in the early days. Please pay attention to what side of the road you turn into when taking a corner; please be aware of how much space you’re taking up in dual carriageways (don’t just take up both lanes to be safe!) and please be aware how close you are to the bike and foot paths.

There’s also the matter of not knowing exactly where you’re going. Again, I get it. I still find myself lost down Ibiza country laneways when heading to a mystery location or to meet a friend. And yes, while GPS, sat navs, TomToms and Google Maps (aren’t they all the same thing?) are brilliant inventions to help us find the way to our destinations, the fact is – when you’re busy paying attention to the voice of the lovely lady who knows exactly how to get everywhere, you’re not paying 100-percent attention to the road. It definitely beats the good old fashioned paper map or bulky street directory, but it’s worth checking out the route to get to your destination before you even start the car – just to get a little heads up. So many of Ibiza’s roads are unmarked, or hidden behind a giant tree or demarcated by coloured rocks… you often see your ‘take the next left’ cue far too late, which can easily be the cause of a pile-up.

Indicating is another one of those things that seems to be forgotten by hire car drivers in Ibiza. I really don’t understand why – it’s in the same position as your regular car. But – as per my point above – it’s so important to let the drivers behind you know you plan to turn soon so they don’t plough into the back of you when you suddenly realise the ‘blue rock’ you needed to turn at is just one metre ahead. Considering that driver is also likely to be lost, on the phone or following a GPS in their hire car, there’s a fair chance they’re not thinking defensively about what you ‘might’ do next. Unless they live in Ibiza all year round of course… when defensive driving becomes just another skill you pick up in the summer. If you get lost… please just pull over at the next available point to correct your route rather than stopping in the middle of nowhere. A few extra minutes spent paying attention never killed anyone… but wobbling all over the road as you try to adjust the GPS actually could.

And then, there are the complicated matter of how to approach a roundabout. Unfortunately… it’s not the same as many other places in the world. It’s as simple as this: the outside lane has the right of way, always. So if you’re on the inside lane, and going ‘straight’ for example, you would have to give way to the car on your right who may be turning left. Sound complicated? It’s not, but due to so many of us learning to drive under different roundabout laws, navigating Ibiza’s ‘rondas’ can feel like a kamikaze type experience. Here’s a video produced by a group of Spanish police officers trying to explain the process – though unless you speak Spanish it may not be of use. Perhaps a good tip for hire car companies would be to hand out diagrams in all languages explaining how the process works in Spain. I’ll pop it in the suggestion box.

There’s also the matter of safety. Just because you’re in a hire car (or a taxi for that matter) does not mean you are immune to injuries caused by not wearing seatbelts. You might be taking a holiday from day to day life, but without a seatbelt, in the case of an accident (heaven forbid), you may never be able to return to life as you knew it. Collisions in Ibiza are becoming more and more commonplace (for all the reasons I’ve been outlining above) and so it just makes sense to DO WHAT THE LAW TELLS YOU TO DO and wear a seat belt when you’re in the car. Or a helmet on the back of a scooter. Please. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Speaking of scooters. Given how the traffic has increased in recent years, more and more people – locals and visitors alike – are opting to hire mopeds, in order to whizz in and out of traffic, zip up the shoulder when cars are banked up, park easily in town (without having to pay the meter!) and I totally understand the appeal. I always loved Audrey Hepburn on the Vespa in Roman Holiday and don’t even get me started on Gael García Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries. If you decide to hire a scooter or motorbike, you really do need your wits about you at all times. Not only are you thinking about driving safely, but you’re having to constantly think ahead and drive defensively, based on the actions of the cars around you. You may be in their blind spot, or they may not be paying attention. They may not expect you to zip into the shoulder… as they are turning right without indicating. Then there are the slippy gravelly roads, the crazy potholes, the sand-edged coastline roads. I seriously shudder at the thought of the dangers moped drivers face, all day, every day (and having been in an accident on one as a passenger in another country myself, I can promise you I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone).

Last – but ABSOLUTELY not least – is the matter of driving under the influence. What is it about Ibiza that makes holidaymakers think they can get behind the wheel of their hire car drunk or high? There is just no scenario in which this is ok. Sure… you’re thinking, but I’ve done it before and I got home safe. Or it was just a couple of [insert your preferred method here] and no one will realise. Or (and this is my least favourite excuse of all time) but I’m an excellent driver when I’m like that – I concentrate more on the road. ARGH. There are no words I can write to beg you over and over and over again not to drive drunk. Not to drive stoned. Not to drive buzzed. Not to drive high. Because the stakes are too high. For yourself, for the passengers in your car and for all the other people – drivers, passengers, cyclist, pedestrians – on the road.

Now, I like to think I am a pretty good driver. I’ve been doing it for a couple of decades and I’ve even been complimented on my driving skills. I stick to the speed limit (err, generally), I wear a seat belt and I follow the road rules because, well, I believe that some rules are NOT made to be broken – such as those that have been put in place to save lives. And I don’t understand why hire car drivers think they have the right to do any differently. So please… if you are coming to Ibiza this summer and planning to hire a car, please just think of all those who live here, all those other tourists around you, all the children who might be in the cars next to you on their way to school, all the dogs and cats and chickens down country roads… Be patient, Be aware. And please drive safe. There really is no other way.

Class dismissed.