The Most Dangerous Hazard: Fog

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Online

Depending on where you live and travel, you may or may not encounter fog on a regular basis. No matter when, where, or how often you encounter fog, always bear in mind that this is one of the most dangerous road hazards out there.
In an ideal world, this entry would be very short. Driving in fog? Just don’t do it. However, it is not an ideal world, and you may find at some point that you have no choice but to drive through a patch of fog. While this isn’t the safest situation to be in, there are steps you can take to make sure that you complete your journey without incident (or accident.)
Fog consists of water droplets suspended in the air; driving through heavy fog is a bit like flying through a cloud. As a result, fog is often heaviest at night and in the morning. If possible, wait until mid- or late afternoon, by which point the fog is likely to have burned off. If waiting isn’t an option, then proceed with caution. Remember that fog can dramatically reduce visibility; in thick fog, visibility can be as low as ¼ of a mile!
First, make sure that your low beams and fog lights (the red lights next to your brake lights and yellow lights next to the headlights) are turned on. However, don’t turn on your high beams. Remember that fog is made of water and, like the surface of a lake, will reflect light. If you are putting more light out into the fog, more is being reflected back at your windshield, creating a glare that will further reduce visibility. So, avoid high beams; however, do keep your other lights on, as, without these lights, other cars may not be able to see you.
Next, as you would in any hazardous weather, slow down, and stay slowed down! Fog can affect your sense of your own speed, as we generally judge speed using visual clues (like trees passing in our peripheral vision) that fog obscures. Make sure you check your speedometer to make sure that you are actually maintaining a reduced speed.
Reduced visibility may also affect your sense of where you are on the road. For this reason, use the white line on the right side of the road (sometimes known as the fog line) to make sure that you are staying safely on your side of the road. If you use the center line to check your alignment, you could end up in a head-on collision.
While fog may impair your sense of sight, don’t make the damage worse than it has to be. Turn on your defrost and use your wipers to keep your windows clear, as the damp fog will quickly condense on your windshield. Use your sense of hearing to supplement your vision; turn off your radio and open one of your windows slightly, so that you can hear approaching cars even before you see them.
You also need to be aware of other cars on the road. While it may be tempting to “follow” the taillights of the car ahead of you, don’t get too close. Remember that you may not judge distance as well as you would under other circumstances, and therefore can’t stop as suddenly as you may need to. Make sure you don’t get to close to the car in front of you. Also, avoid any sudden moves that may disturb the drivers behind you, such as suddenly stopping or turning. If you need to slow down or stop, begin by tapping your brake lights to alert drivers behind you and then slow your vehicle as gradually as possible.
If you should need to stop for any reason, avoid doing so while still on the road. Try to find a rest stop or other safe place to pull over. If you are unable to make it to a safe stopping place, then try to pull as far off the road as possible. Never stop in the middle of the road when fog occurs, even if the thickness of the fog makes continuing your journey safely impossible. Get as far off the road as you can and turn on your emergency lights.
And remember: the first rule of fog is: don’t drive in fog. The second rule of fog is: don’t drive in fog. The third rule of fog is: don’t drive in fog.
You get the point.

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