What do Ireland and South Carolina have in common?

Strong Towns member, Vince Graham, used the St. Patrick's Day holiday as an opportunity to contact his state's Secretary of Transportation. He kindly shared his letter with us.

Secretary Hall,

Here's wishing you and your staff a happy St. Patrick's Day. Today reminds me of a memorable trip I took to the Republic of Ireland last summer.

Vince, on a two-lane road in Ireland

Vince, on a two-lane road in Ireland

The country is roughly the same size and has the same population as [our home state of] South Carolina. However, despite having many 2-lane roads similar in character to that in the photo of me to the right (a 15'-wide two-lane road with 7.5' travel lanes, no shoulders), Ireland has less than 1/5 the annual traffic fatalities of SC. (Ireland has 3.5 traffic fatalities per 100,000 population compared to an average of 11.6 for U.S. and 17.5 for SC). Last year, Ireland had 166 traffic related deaths compared to 950 in SC. These stats would seem to affirm Jesus' counterintuitive point: "… broad is the road that leads to destruction…narrow the road that leads to life." (Matthew 7:13-14).

Ireland also ranks 9th on the economic freedom scale (U.S. is 12th). Despite serving potatoes with everything, Ireland's obesity rate is lower than that of the U.S.

The Republic of Ireland has an extensive network of public roads connecting the country. As of January 1, 2008, there were 3,373 miles of national roads: 1,705 miles of national primary routes (including motorways, which are similar to U.S. interstates) and 1,668 miles of national secondary routes. 

In addition to national roads, Ireland has 7,227 miles of regional roads and 49,071 miles of local roads, for a total of 59,671 miles of roads. For comparison, South Carolina has 77,000 miles of roads with approximately 41,500 in the SCDOT system. The 41,500 miles in the SCDOT system includes 851 miles of interstate miles. [...]  Ireland also has more roundabouts than traffic lights, which may contribute to the traffic fatality rate being less than 1/5 that of South Carolina's.

The Irish are incredibly friendly, and I'm convinced that if the country had better weather, tourism would be through the roof. As it is, they report 7.3 million annual visitors. For comparison, New York City has about 40 million. Venice, Myrtle Beach, and the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld each have about 19 million. Greece has 25 million. Charleston about 5 million.

If you've never been, I highly recommend a trip.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


(All images by the author)

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