Top 10 Irish driver hand signals you’d better get right

Don’t you dare think of getting on the road without knowing these Irish driver hand signals to help you navigate your major road journey.

Driving is a skill. We have to first wait until we turn 17 in this country, then take 12 lessons (some of us may need more) and finally attempt to pass the nerve-wracking test to claim the highly sought-after driver’s licence. We take all reasonable precautions necessary. 

There is a lot to take in whilst learning how to navigate the road safely and match the ordinary speed limit, never mind navigating your way around a car (trying your best not to conk). It’s a challenging process.

However, we are here to teach you what your driving instructor won’t. The crucial hand signals that every Irish driver needs to know to survive it on the road. Your car may signal to another car what you are about to do but only you can tell them how you really feel. 

Take notes if you would like to because this stuff is important to know. Here are ten Irish driver hand signals you’d better get right.

Ireland Before You Die’s top tips for Irish driver hand signals

Here are some short, practical tips before getting into our article:

  • A useful tip is when if you are letting someone overtake you, you can extending your right arm out of the window and with a beckoning motion let them know they can drive past.
  • Hazard lights can be useful for a number of reasons. For example, as a sudden stop, as a warning your car is broke down, or you can flash them quickly as a way of saying ‘thank you’.
  • A raised hand or small wave always goes a long way when thanking drivers for giving way and acknowledging what they have done.
  • You can flash your lights to an oncoming driver to signal an upcoming hazard, or to warn the driver of a police checkpoint or speed camera.
  • If you are riding a bicycle, extending your arm left will indicate you are turning left, and extending your arm right will indicate you are turning right.

10. The one-finger salute – a subtle gesture but gets the message across

This signal involves lifting up the index finger on the right hand whilst keeping the rest of the hand on the wheel.

This signal involves lifting up the index finger on the right hand whilst keeping the rest of the hand on the wheel.

This gesture should be used in situations such as when you are letting someone go ahead of you, someone walking in front of your car at a crossing, or someone is reversing into a spot in front of you.

A big fancy gesture isn’t needed just something that says “no problem” or “go ahead”. See where this one ranks on the list of the top 10 Irish hand gestures you’d better get right.

9. The full-hand salute – a bit more generous

The full hand raise is a more generous Irish driver hand signal.

The full-hand salute should be used where someone has done you a favour and you are showing your appreciation.

An example of this Irish driver hand signal would be if someone were to let you go in front of them or let you have a parking spot. It’s driving language for “thank you, appreciate it”. Hey, it’s nice to be nice.

8. The wave – a big hello to the pals

The wave is one of the most popular Irish driver hand signal.
Credit: Flickr / Joe Shlabotnik

When you see your friend either driving or walking, make sure to give them a big wave. This is an easy and efficient way to get their attention and let them know you see them.

However, sometimes another person might think you’re waving at them so make sure to target your wave at the right time.

LEARN MORE about what it is like on the Irish roads with IB4UD’s article on 6 driving situations that only happen in Ireland

7. Throwing the hands in the air – tell me someone has annoyed you without telling me someone has annoyed you

Throwing your hands up is another type of Irish driver hand signal.
Credit: Flickr / jon collier

Sadly, there are bad drivers out there; not us, but they are out there. If someone on the road has caused you some annoyance, like not indicating or pulling out too fast, you throw your hands in the air to signal your annoyance.

We advise keeping this action brief as you need at least one hand on the wheel. If this hand gesture has ever been done in your direction, you may want to brush up on your driving skills.

6. Left-hand salute out the back window – always find a way to say thank you

Wave to the car behind to say thank you.
Credit: Pixabay

This signal would be used in a situation where you are over-taking someone. Some people can be a bit smug when passing someone out. Don’t be that person.

Make sure upon passing the person out that you raise your left hand to salute so that they can see it out your back window. Simple right?

5. Thumbs up – one of the best Irish driver hand signals

The thumbs up is one of the best Irish driver hand signals.

This is a good backup signal if you forget the others. No one will be offended if they are given a thumbs up.

It’s even more enthusiastic than the other salutes and can even say to the person “great driving” or “that’s good with me”. We give this sign a …. you’ve probably guessed it.

READ MORE: If you are coming to Ireland to drive, take a read of our piece on what you need to know about visiting and driving in Ireland

4. The keep-coming gesture – this person means business, don’t keep them waiting

This person means business, so don't keep them waiting.

If you see this gesture pointed your way, you are being given the right-of-way. Don’t get into a “no, you go first” with the other driver. You have the green light to go. 

Whoever makes the keep-coming gesture has already decided that they are letting you go. This situation may occur when you are hoping to turn in somewhere and another car is coming against you. Communication is key guys.

READ MORE: This might come in handy when driving along the Gap of Dunloe, one of the top 5 dangerous tourist destinations in Ireland

3. The hand out the window – for judging how warm it is

This is a good judge of the weather.

This signal can provide some guidance to those on the public roads who are wondering about the weather, and may help a lot on a long stretch of roadway.

On a hot day (a rare occasion) people may have their hand out the window to get that nice cool breeze. The braver ones have the whole arm out the window but we don’t recommend that.

READ: Want to start using these signals on the roads in the capital? Then have a scan of IB4UD’s article on Learning to drive in Dublin: the test and all 5 RSA driving test centres & routes explained

2. The middle finger – not to be confused with the one-finger salute

This Irish driver hand signal means you're a bad driver.
Credit: Flickr / Christoph Schulz

Luckily, this signal means the same on the road as it does off the road…. we’ll let you fill in the blanks.

So, if you see this signal pointed at you, you’re either a very bad driver or the other driver has severe anger issues. Stay safe out there, the road can be an angry place.

1. The infamous “scan” – if you know, you know

The scan is number one on our list of the Irish driver hand signal.

This is a sign of respect among young road users more typically boy racers (boys who drive fast cars for those of you who are unsure).

So, make sure if you’re passing a good friend of yours, give them the “scan”. It may take you a while to get the hang of it, but soon it’ll be second nature to you.

Other notable mentions

Holding onto the handholds on the side of the car: This is in reference to the front seat passenger of the car. This may signal that they don’t particularly trust the driver. Many mothers and fathers know this action well when driving with their children.

Giving the two-fingers: We’re still trying to distinguish the situation where you would use the two-fingers (peace-sign turned around) instead of the middle finger. It wouldn’t be a good situation anyway.

Your questions answered about Irish driver hand signals

Having read our article on Irish driver hand signals and still have some questions, then you are in the right place! Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

There are many things to look out for when driving in Ireland.
Credit: Flickr / David McKelvey

What road signals should you look out for in Ireland? 

There are many and watch out for the contradictory signals. These could be pedestrian crossings, traffic signs and traffic lights, the speed limit, learner drivers, road markings, a road junction, and a one-way street.

These could also include your miles per hour, road signs, bus lanes, the traffic lane, the flow of traffic, and other signals by drivers. Watch out for the traffic conditions and don’t become an obstruction to traffic. 

What side of the road do we drive on?

We drive on the left-hand lane of the road in Ireland, not the right-hand lane. This applies to both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Are all our cars automatic?

No, we have a mixture of both automatic and manual.

Can you drive at 16 in Ireland?

No, you must wait until you are 17 to get your provisional licence and start taking driving lessons. Make sure to listen to the person in charge. Then you can get your driving licence. 

NEXT: Why stop there? Read Ireland Before You Die’s article on rude Irish hand gestures: 10 most offensive signs in Ireland

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more