How defective lights are posing a major threat to safety on our roads
Our Road Safety Authority expert says one in every 14 motorists are driving around with a broken light .
The results of our new defective lights observational study, out this week, make for disappointing reading.
Based on fieldwork conducted late last year, during which almost 35,000 vehicles were observed, it looks like about 7pc or 1-in-14 vehicles are driving around with a broken light.
It's also disappointing because the same survey in 2013 showed that 8pc of vehicles were driving with defective lights. So there really hasn't been any improvement in the vehicle fleet in this country in the last 12 months.
It goes without saying that a vehicle with a broken headlight poses a serious threat to safety on the road.
These 'one-eyed jacks', as we call them, could easily be mistaken for a motorcycle by an oncoming vehicle.
Back to the results of the survey. When the results are broken down, further problems with the front lighting emerge as being the most common; 4pc of lights were found to be defective on the front of the vehicle and 2pc of rear lights were out of action.
It's surprising to see that the worst offenders are the vehicles I would have assumed would be the best maintained on the road - trucks and buses.
Around 7pc of all cars surveyed were found to have either a broken front, back light or both. But when you look at semi-articulated vehicles this increases to 8pc and for rigid goods vehicles it jumps to one in ten.
Clearly, a strong message needs to go out to haulage operators and employers who are obviously failing in their duty to ensure their drivers are performing a basic pre-drive walk around vehicle check.
By doing such a walk-around check to look for road-worthiness issues, problems can be spotted and fixed so that a truck or bus isn't taken out onto the public road if it has defective lighting.
We surveyed vehicles in both urban and rural settings and the results were consistent across both areas for cars.
However, goods vehicles and buses travelling on rural routes were more likely to have one or more defective lights than on urban routes.
Looked at by road type, the study found the incidence of defective lighting was highest on our National Secondary routes. One-in-seven vehicles on these roads were found to have broken lights.
And guess what, the worst offenders on these routes were goods vehicle and buses. Those who drive professionally for a living have no excuse because they fall under Health and Safety Legislation to ensure they are operating roadworthy vehicles.
It is different for the owners of private vehicles. There is no obligation on private motorists to conduct a walk-around check on their vehicles before they drive off, although it's a good habit to have.
Also have you tried to change a bulb on a car recently? It's not easy. In the case of my own vehicle, open heart surgery would be easier.
I need to bring it to the garage to get a mechanic to replace a broken bulb because it's almost impossible to get access to the light fitting.
Many motorists may not actually realise they have a broken headlight either, until someone points it out to them.
Here's something that forecourt garages could help out with. Why not have a reflective plastic mirror strip on the forecourt, beside the service area, so drivers can check their lights? We need to get tougher with motorists who drive around with defective lighting, but it must be fair and proportionate.
The new road safety strategy contains an action that would allow for the introduction of a new 'Rectification Notice Scheme'. This would allow gardai provide drivers the opportunity to have their vehicle repaired.
As drivers may be unaware of the defect in the first place, such a system would allow them to get the light fixed, instead of incurring on the spot fines and penalty points. In the meantime, please spend a few minutes this evening checking your vehicle lights and get them repaired if broken.
Any views? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Engine oil: make sure it's the right stuff
WE spoke about water a few weeks back. The same advice applies to oil. Don't rely on the oil gauge on your dashboard. Check it yourself with the dip stick.
Wait until the engine is cool before checking your oil. Remove and clean the dipstick before re-inserting it. If the oil level is below the minimum marker on the stick you need to top it up before you do any more driving. Don't be tempted to ignore it.
Use a funnel when topping up and leave enough time for the oil to reach the sump before checking the level again. Don't forget to replace the oil cap - lots of people do.
If you find the oil level falling over a short period, you need to have your car looked at.
Unfortunately people rarely check their oil.
Worse still, what I am seeing more and more of lately is motorists using the incorrect oil in their car. There might be nothing wrong with buying oil in a supermarket, but make sure it is the type specified by the car manufacturer.
Oil has more ratings and standards than we will be able to discuss here. Engines are lighter and are more fuel efficient. Better quality oil makes these improvements possible. As engines are now designed to run hotter than previously, using the right lubricant is more critical than ever. More models require full synthetic oils.
Using the correct oil keeps your engine running smoothly. Primarily, oil stops the metal surfaces in your engine from grinding together and wearing, by creating a separating oil film between them.
The oil also disperses heat and reduces wear, protecting the engine.
Using the wrong grade oil can cause rapid deterioration of engine parts.
Advice courtesy of Ford master technician Brian Kelly of Rathfarnham Ford, Whitechurch Road, Dublin.
The price we pay for not asking about repair costs
Most people overlook the real and long-term cost of owning a car.
That in a nutshell is the verdict of the experts.
I put it to one of them, John Cunningham, after-sales head at SEAT Ireland.
He was straightforward and blunt in his assessment.
"Most people who come in to buy a car do not look at the cost of ownership," he told me.
We should listen closely to people like him because I think you can overlook potentially hundreds and hundreds of outlay in keeping your car on the road.
"Salesmen don't want to sell service plans," Mr Cunningham says (he'll be in trouble with his staff over that). They want to sell cars. It is in their nature.
It is a fact that most people look at the price but just how often do they take time to consider elements such as the cost of ownership?
Think about it. When you go to buy a car you have one or two meetings/discussions with the salesman.
But how many times will you be dealing with the after-sales people? Once, twice, three times a year for three or four or more years? So it makes sense to think more in those terms. We think it is all about getting a great deal on price. We need to think about longer-term.
This all arose as a result of SEAT's fixed-price servicing. You pay so much, you know in advance and that's that.
By the way, they now have a three-year, 150,000km warranty. Now that's an area people inquire about. Ask Kia. They'll tell you how big a seller their seven-year warranty can be as it gives peace of mind if something goes wrong.
And yet, contradictory people that we are, we normally never ask about how much repairs might cost when we are buying.