The claim: Cleaning egg residue with windshield wipers and spray will block visibility by 92.5%
Since at least the Middle Ages, the vandalistic practice of egging has punctuated bad plays, humiliated prisoners, aided protests, insulted politicians and entertained young troublemakers. Now, over 180,000 social media users have shared a warning that gangs are using eggs for a new purpose: highway robbery.
According to a two-year-old Facebook post that has found new life in recent weeks, gang members launch raw eggs at passing cars, obstructing drivers' vision. Then, forced to pull over, the drivers are vulnerable to robbers or people posing as helpers.
But you aren't doomed to become a victim, the post claims, as long as you don't try to clean your windshield.
"DO NOT STOP TO CHECK THE CAR, DO NOT OPERATE THE WIPER AND DO NOT SPRAY ANY WATER, BECAUSE EGGS MIXED WITH WATER BECOME MILKY AND BLOCK YOUR VISION UP TO 92.5%," the post reads. "THIS IS A NEW TACTIC USED BY GANGS."
There's no question viscous eggs have the potential to distract drivers and decrease their visibility. But is it true that windshield wipers whip up a blend of egg and water that is 92.5% opaque?
There's no evidence to support that claim. Several online experiments found that wipers cleaned egg residue effectively.
And while an online search suggested that a handful of car-egging incidents may have occurred in the past 10 years, no reports of egging-robberies in the U.S. turned up.
USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.
Where did the meme come from?
The viral post sounds the alarm about a new surge of egging-robberies, but the post, along with the unproven, oddly precise 92.5% figure, has bounced around the internet for more than a decade with only isolated incidents occurring.
According to Snopes, the earliest known warning of the egging tactic, including the absurd 92.5% figure, was passed around through email in October 2009.
From then on, versions of the post with the same 92.5% figure were tuned to local audiences and passed on. For example, a later version claimed the egging tactic was “used by robbers in Johor Bahru,” capital of the Malaysian state of Johor, Snopes reported.
Even though it was not connected to an attempted robbery, an egging incident in Charlotte, North Carolina, may have sparked the circulation of the post from 2019. A woman told local TV news station WCNC that she would have lost visibility if she had used her wipers after "a group of young boys" egged her car. She did not address whether she had considered using wiper fluid.
It is also possible the word "gang" simply meant "group" in original versions of the meme, rather than referencing an organized crime syndicate of some kind as it does in the U.S. For example, a Northern Ireland paper published a story in October 2002 headlined, "Egg-throwing gangs 'a danger.'" The article reported that groups of "kids" had targeted several cars with eggs, but they had not attempted to rob them.
No evidence of a surge in egg-related crime
Eggings of cars have no doubt occurred in past years – in an undated report, police in Suffolk, England, said they "seized a large stash of eggs" from four men who had pelted several cars – but only two incidents of potential egging-robberies could be found in an online search.
The Hindustan Times reported in 2010 that New Delhi police had received several reports of robbers using the tactic and included advice from local resident welfare associations that drivers should avoid using windshield wipers.
In 2018, Express reported that a British tourist vacationing in Spain said a car followed him after an egg hit his windshield.
"The important thing is not to put your wipers on,” the tourist, Peter Cackett, said in a Facebook post. “If you do then your whole windscreen will be obscured, and don't stop to clean it off, that's what they want you to do. They then offer to help you clean it and whilst you are pre-occupied they rob you in what ever way they can (sic).”
Windshield wipers clean egg residue; no evidence of 92.5% visibility loss
The post warns drivers that using windshield wipers and spray will backfire and "block your vision up to 92.5%" rather than increasing visibility. But online experiments show that cleaning the windshield works just fine.
Assuming the post meant "windshield visibility" by the word "vision," a decrease of 92.5% would mean a driver would only be able to see faint lights through the egg-water residue.
But even at night, with oncoming headlights creating windshield glare, an experiment posted on YouTube by car guru Charlton Gonsalves showed that visibility was nowhere near as low as the post claims. Though leftover residue reflected some light, he said he still had good visibility after he ran his wipers and sprayed three to four times.
In daylight, after Gonsalves ran the wipers and sprayed four times, the windshield was completely clear except for a few small, translucent patches.
“One egg, many eggs, day or night really makes no difference. Honestly, it’s just one of those things passed around on the internet to instill fear," Gonsalves told viewers of his YouTube channel, Nexus Auto, after the experiment. "We can successfully say this is not a problem, it is not an issue.”
Africa Fact Check also cited an experiment by Harry Tangye, who was then sergeant of the Devon and Cornwall Police in the United Kingdom. Tangye showed that cleaning the windshield improved visibility and concluded that using both wipers and spray was safer than not.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that cleaning egg residue on your car with windshield wipers and spray will block visibility by 92.5% FALSE, based on our research. Recorded experiments show visibility improves dramatically after drivers clean their windshields, leaving little residue behind.
Our fact-check sources:
Snopes, Dec. 7, 2009, Robbers Throwing Eggs at Car Windshields?
Hindustan Times, Feb. 15, 2010, Road robbers’ brand new ruse
Harry Tangye, Dec. 31, 2017, Test on what's best to clear an egg from a windscreen
Nexus Auto on Youtube, March 4, 2018, The Windshield Egg-speriment – Is the meme true
Express, Nov. 19, 2018, Shocking moment criminal gang EGG tourist's car - what he did next saved him
WCNC, April 16, 2019, A Charlotte woman said her car was egged. Now, she's warning others.
Africa Fact Check, Aug.23, 2019, Windscreen egged? Ignore Facebook advice and use your wipers
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Windshield wipers work fine if you're egged while driving