Beware the One-Eyed Monster

If part of your job involves talking to people you know that it will never be boring. I had a fella onto me this week who had a perspective on road safety that was so warped and bonkers that he should be studied by expert psychologists.

His basic point was that everyone in Ireland is corrupt except me and him (and by the end of the conversation I was corrupt as well ), and that until every politician past and present was locked up the Garda have no right bother him.

The assault on his human rights that sparked this outrage was that he was caught recently driving a car with one defective headlight. A bit extreme perhaps but his attitude is not that uncommon.

Most people will realise this is lethal especially at this time of the year. In darkness or poor light – which is all but a few hours of the day in January - cars with one defective light will look like a motorbike to oncoming traffic.

This is nearly more dangerous than no light at all. A pedestrian walking towards you on a country lane may think he has loads of room; likewise an oncoming car may think he has 2 metres more space than he has.

I’m not sure but I definitely think this is becoming more common. We are hearing a lot of reports about it this winter both via our blog and via AA Roadwatch.

We are about to know more. This week the AA will be issuing its latest questionnaire to AA Members asking them their views on various motoring related matters. A lot of Advertiser readers may be familiar with this – it is an online survey sent by email and we get fantastic rates of participation.

We will be asking people how often they are encountering these ‘one-eyed monsters’ on the roads and I would be surprised if it did not turn out to be a very common experience. The reason may be partly to do with the ongoing economic situation. We know for sure that cars are not being as well maintained now as they were in previous years.

Another factor is that changing a bulb used to be a very straightforward job – five minutes tops. This just isn’t true any more. In modern cars you often need to remove the bumper or the headlight housing, and then you have to be very careful with focus and alignment afterwards. It has become a garage job rather than a DIY job. I suppose progress does not always mean that things get better.

It is a good idea to check the cars lights regularly. It only takes a moment when you have someone to help you out. Try each of the car’s lights separately and have someone standing outside the car tell you if they are working.

Even if the bulbs still work they may drift out of alignment. This is a very common reason for failing the NCT. If other cars seem to be flashing you a lot for no reason it could well be that your beams are mis-aligned and dazzling them.

Motoring expenses are no joke, and if you know that your car needs to be serviced but you also know that it will cost you €200 or more it is very tempting to let it slide.

You can sort of get away with that in the short term but it will come back and haunt you. Poorly serviced cars will have a shorter lifespan for critical components and will cost you more money in the long run.

I have said before, perhaps unfairly, that drivers often treat car servicing the way we treat a trip to the dentist. You know you should go regularly but in fact you put it off until you actually have a tooth-ache. In the same way, people put off regular servicing until they actually notice something wrong with the car.

That might not matter much for some parts of the car but for key safety components, including headlights, it is critical.


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