Donegal drivers really will come to the rescue, radio show proves

Sue Doherty


Sue Doherty

Donegal drivers really are more chivalrous than others and one young Donegal woman proved the point when she participated in a not so scientific experiment for RTÉ Radio 1’s John Murray show on Wednesday morning.

Donegal drivers really are more chivalrous than others and one young Donegal woman proved the point when she participated in a not so scientific experiment for RTÉ Radio 1’s John Murray show on Wednesday morning.

Recently AA Rescue published a poll which showed that Donegal drivers were the most likely to come to the aid of a driver in distress at the side of the road.

12,300 drivers were polled and the figures were good news for Donegal with the findings showing that 61% of drivers in the county would come to someone’s assistance if their car was broken down on the side of the road.

The poll also showed that the least helpful drivers were in Kildare and Meath.

So, armed with those figures the clever people on the John Murray show decided to test the figures and enlisted the help of the Donegal Democrat editor to identify a driver who might help them prove or disprove the theory.

Our editor ‘volunteered’ his daughter Sarah for the early start in freezing temperatures Wednesday morning and low and behold the figures stack up with Donegal yet again beating Kildare - this time 4-0!

With the temperature gauge flicking between zero and minus 1 NUIG graduate Sarah and Barry Brennan from Kildare were asked to put on their ‘help me faces’ and put the AA survey results to the test.

Sarah parked her car on the left hand side of the road heading north from Ballyshannon to Donegal town and switched her hazard lights on.

She was instructed to stand by the back of the car to see if any drivers would pull in and offer her assistance. Both drivers were told they couldn’t flag people down and the 30 minute test began.

In Kildare Barry Brennan was doing likewise. He and Sarah were given strict instructions not to wave at cars or make any gestures to encourage motorists to stop.

If and when a motorist stopped they were told to explain that their car had run out of petrol and their mobile phone was dead.

They were to ask their ‘Knight in Shining Armour’ if they could use their mobile to make a call to someone. They then were to inform the helper that they couldn’t get through to the caller and were to ask their good samaritan to drive them to a nearby garage and give them €5 for petrol! If a motorist agreed to all this they were to then tell them it was an experiment which that driver had passed with flying colours. Easy really!

Within ten minutes of beginning the experiment, three vehicles had stopped for Sarah in Donegal and by the end of the 30 minute test which ran from 8.30am to 9am, four drivers had stopped to help her. In Kildare things were not going quite so well for Barry Brennan who eventually struck out with no offers of help - suggesting that the AA survey findings are not far off the mark.

Show presenter John Murray told the Donegal Democrat: “We take the point raised by some listeners that people might be more likely to stop for a woman, but the experiment would suggest Donegal people are very helpful - and we never doubted that!”

Sarah told us: “It was minus 1 but people still got out of their cars to help and they were incredibly helpful. Three of the drivers were from Donegal and the fourth from Tyrone, so credit where it is due.”

About the real poll!

The poll question, which specifically hones in on motorists classified as more vulnerable such as a lone female, a parent travelling with children and an elderly motorist, shows that an older driver is most likely to elicit a sympathetic response.

The poll revealed that Donegal drivers are most likely to stop and lend a hand across all categories of drivers featured.

Nationally, 60% of the 12,300 drivers polled by AA Rescue indicated they would stop to assist an older driver whose vehicle had broken down. A figure which increased to 71% among the poll’s male participants.

A high number of respondents overall, 57%, were also willing to help out someone stranded with young children in their car. Again this figure was notably higher among male drivers at 67%.

Overall, 55% of the men polled said they would stop and help a lone female motorist who visibly needed assistance while just 4% of women indicated that they would do the same for a lone male driver.

Chivalry is alive and well in counties Donegal and Kerry, the AA Rescue poll results suggest. At 61% and 59% respectively, a slightly higher percentage of drivers in the two counties than in the remaining twenty four said they’d come to the aid of a damsel in distress so to speak.

One sentiment which emerged several times during the AA Rescue poll was that some men simply wouldn’t be comfortable attending a lone female without another woman present for fear they may be perceived as a threat.

AA Ireland gives tips for staying safe in the event of a breakdown on the website