Fog is a weather situation that occurs naturally in most of the U.S. and can have a large negative impact on the safety of drivers. Before we get into what driving schools teach about driving in the fog, a few interesting facts about fog itself:
- Fog is an accumulation of ice crystals or water droplets hanging in the air near ground surface. Fog reduces visibility to less than 1 km (5/8 statute mile).
- Mist is similar to fog, but with somewhat greater visibility. Mist reduces visibility to no less than 1 km (5/8 statute mile).
- Grand Banks off the island of Newfoundland, Canada is the foggiest place in the world.
- Over 200 days of fog per year are seen in a few notable areas of the world including Newfoundland and Labrador, Argentina, and Point Reyes, California.
- Seattle, Washington is also notable for having a large number of foggy days.
Fog is both an interesting phenomenon and a potential driving hazard. Driving lessons typically discuss decreased visibility but often do not dive into the details of dealing with difficult fog situations. Many a driver who has been caught driving in dense fog is faced with decreased visibility which can also be coupled with decreased road grip as well. These combined together can create quite a bad situation, especially for someone who recently graduated driving school.
If you find yourself in a situation of driving in serious fog, here’s a few pointers for handling the situation:
- Realize that visibility is severely hampered. As your drivers education probably taught, leave more room between you and the car directly ahead of you. Also the “fog line” or the white line on the right hand side of the road is used to mark the edge of the road.
- If you have fog lights, turn them on. They are mounted lower than normal lights and will provide light closer to the road.
- Drive with low beam headlights as opposed to turning on the high beams. High beams radiate light physically higher into the fog which has a tendency to light-up the fog actually decreasing visibility. Low beams tend to point down and help provide illumination of the road surface.
- Scan the sides of the road more often for shining eyeballs at night. These indicate the potential presence of an animal and you should be prepared to stop very quickly.
- Use windshield wipers in heavy fog. After all, fog is a form of precipitation and as such windshield wipers can help keep your vision sharp.
- Do not make unnecessary sudden stops as drivers behind you have the same visibility problems you are experiencing. Abrupt stopping runs the risk of following drivers running into the rear of your car.
- In emergency conditions, be extra careful. Turn on emergency flashers immediately. Exit the car from the passengers side if possible. Place emergency road flares if fog is extremely dense. Stay out of the road as other drivers have low visibility as well.
- High aim vision is still the goal, although tempered greatly by the length of visibility. You should still be looking forward as you may still catch a glimpse of a distant taillight. Also, when looking ahead lights will only be a fraction of their normal luminance, so be prepared to react to reduced visual information.
In conclusion driving in the fog can be very dangerous and by remaining alert, using common sense, and remembering these 8 tips you can be a safer driver.