Driving safely on today’s roads demands more skill and better judgment than ever before, especially under hostile weather conditions. Here we concentrate on the challenge of fog. This dangerous meteorological condition emerges most often in spring and autumn. As always, the familiar plea from auto clubs, experts, and law enforcement organizations not to drive too fast or too close must be heeded.
Driving in heavy fog is like driving with a blindfold on. Statistically, it’s the most dangerous driving hazard in existence. No matter how important the trip is, it’s not worth gambling your life. By far the safest thing to do if you run into fog is to move well off the road and wait for the fog to lift. However, the simple and safe solution is not always the most practical, so read on to find out what driving procedures should be followed in fog.
When driving in fog, reduce your speed and turn on your headlights. Think about how far they can see and how long it will take you to stop. Keep an eye on your speedometer. Studies show that some drivers acclimate themselves to foggy conditions and unconsciously increase their speed over time. Make sure that you can be seen. Turn on your fog lights, and make sure your high beams aren’t turned on by accident. High beams direct light up into the fog, making it difficult for you to see. Low beams direct light down onto the road and help other drivers to see you. Most European cars have a switch that turns on extra-bright auxiliary rear fog lamps. American and Asian vehicles lack this important safety feature. Don’t rely on your parking lights alone: they do little to increase your visibility in daytime fog. Don’t use your emergency flasher. Studies have shown that drivers are attracted to flashing lights and tend to drive into them inadvertently.
Whatever you do, don’t turn off your headlights in heavy fog, even if they interfere with your forward visibility a little. Headlights are the only part of your vehicle that oncoming drivers can see at a distance. Don’t stop in the middle of a roadway either — that guarantees you’ll be rear-ended. If you can’t continue, pull well onto the shoulder, getting your vehicle completely off the road.
Use the right edge of the road (aka fog line) as a guide rather than the center line, to avoid running into oncoming traffic or becoming distracted by their headlights. Think about what other drivers see when they’re behind you. If you drive with your emergency flashers on or keep tapping your brake pedal, you’ll make them nervous and they may try and pass you, a procedure that places both your lives in danger. Always use your defroster and windscreen wipers in foggy conditions and remember that the problems of fog driving become greater at night.
Stepped-up traffic monitoring, police enforcement, or roadway design cannot prevent crashes in poor visibility. More consideration should be given to closing down major highways shrouded in thick fog, just as they’re currently closed when a blizzard occurs. Even though most drivers slow down to some degree, the big problem is getting everyone to drive at a safe, constant speed. GM’s new infrared optical imaging system found on Cadillac’s 2000 Deville can detect objects in the road obscured by darkness or poor visibility. Although not economically feasible for all new automobiles, their installation on large trucks and tractor-trailer rigs could be a step in the right direction.
The best advice we can give to drivers confronted with thick fog is to get off the road as soon as possible. If you can’t or won’t pull off the road we offer the following advice:
- Keep your minimum safety gap to three seconds in ideal conditions; with the decreased visibility fog causes, this interval should be increased substantially.
- Slow down. Most fog-related traffic fatalities occur because someone was driving too fast and couldn’t stop in time to avoid a collision.
- Make sure that you can be seen. Turn on your fog lights, and use low beams. High beams direct light up into the fog making it difficult for you to see. Low beams direct light down onto the road and help other drivers to see you.
- If you leave the road, be sure to pull off completely. Turn off your driving lights and turn on your flashers so others know you’re there but won’t think you are driving on the road.
- Always use your defroster and windscreen wipers in foggy conditions to keep the windows clear.
- Keep an eye on your speedometer and maintain a slow, constant speed.
- Remember that other drivers have a limited sight distance and that fog can leave roadways slick. Signal early, and when you use your brakes, don’t stomp on them.