Years ago, in the middle of winter, I was driving home from seeing a client at night. I was on back roads that were not lit. My headlights were on, but I could barely see the road in front of me. I struggled with this, assuming I had a headlight out, and managed to get to a gas station. There, I investigated the problem and realized my headlights were just covered in the road sludge so common in Ontario winters. I cleaned up my headlights with a window squeegee and voila! I could see again
Prior to this, the thought of washing my headlights never occurred to me. Why would it? Unless you encounter a problem, this is not something I remember being taught in driver’s ed, nor something my parents mentioned to look for as I was learning to drive. Some things we just learn in life the hard way – hoping to not be hurt in the process.
I remember when cars started to be manufactured to have headlights on automatically and all the time. I said to my brother “I don’t get why headlights should be on during the day, they won’t help a driver to see better” and he responded with “it is so other people can see you better”, I am sure adding a brotherly “dummy” in there too.
The other day I was reminded of these lessons again. It was a sunny day, but the roads had been a mess a few days prior. I was driving in the right lane and needed to change into the left lane to make an upcoming left turn. I glanced in my dirty side mirror and my rear mirror which was looking out my dirty back window, and I didn’t see anyone. I checked my side mirror again, and noticed something that looked odd. I focused more clearly and realized that there was another car to the left of me after all. This was a black car, covered in the grey muck of winter. The lights weren’t on, and what struck me was how much this car was essentially the color of the road. The road was a grey, dirt covered mess, and this car blended right in. Had the lights been on, or the car clean, I would have spotted this easily.
Really, both these issues with visibility when driving – to see and be seen – could be tackled with a simple car wash. Even if this seems futile with ongoing weather coming, the short-term benefits are immense. A clean car is easier for others to see, gives you better visibility when the windows and side mirrors are clear, and washes your headlights to make sure these are most effective. Besides, of course, the other benefits of washing road salt and sand from your paint job. Many gas stations have a quick car wash adjacent to the pump, and allow you to pay at the pump for convenience. Or, some car washes are even a drive-thru format and you don’t even have to leave your car. In the end, when it comes to road and driving safety, the added expense of giving your car a rinse could be “priceless”.