Driving in fog is considered to be the most dangerous weather hazard, especially if it is exceptionally dense fog or combined with other adverse weather conditions. Foggy conditions are the number one cause of large multi-car pile ups. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of a crash.
Fight Your Subconscious
During dense fog, a very scary thing happens to people while they are driving. They unknowingly speed up! Of course, we all know that speeding up in fog is the worst thing you can do, but fog creates an optical illusion. As you look out your windshield, your body perceives that you are driving very slow. Since most people become nervous in fog, they don’t look down at their speedometer. Over time, they begin going faster and faster. This is hands down the most dangerous aspect of driving in fog. Make a conscious effort to glance at your speedometer every now and then. There’s a good chance you keep speeding up, without knowing it!
Don’t Be in a Hurry
When the weather is foggy, you don’t have a lot of visibility. Driving at fast speeds isn’t a good idea.
Usually, you can only see a few feet ahead. If there are any obstacles on the road, you’ll only be able to see it when it’s immediately in front of you.
Driving slower allows you to add distance between you and whatever’s in front of you — whether it’s an obstacle or another vehicle. You’ll have ample time to step on the brakes.
If the fog is dense, use your speedometer to regulate your speed. Know that fog usually confuses your senses, making it difficult to determine how fast you’re actually going.
Yes, driving slower may take you longer to get to your destination, but if it means arriving in one piece, it’s well worth it.
Always keep your headlights on when driving in foggy conditions. Your daytime running lights aren’t enough. Many people turn their lights off as they feel their headlights are blinding them from reflecting off the fog, but you essentially become a “ghost car” when this happens. Your headlights aren’t so you can see better, it’s so others can see you! If your car is equipped with fog lights, use those too. When driving in fog, it’s very important to stay visible to others.
Don’t Use High Beams
You should never use your high beam headlights in foggy conditions. Your high beam headlights reflect off of the water droplets and actually decrease your visibility. You may feel that your low beam headlights are doing the same thing, but again, keep them on. It’s the best way for you to be seen.
Maximize Your Windshield Wiper and Defroster
If it’s not raining, turn your windshield wiper on, even if it’s just on the lowest setting. It keeps the glass clear, giving you a better view.
Your car’s defroster is another feature you can utilize. Fog typically happens when it’s humid, so your defroster can help dry the inside of your windows.
No matter what happens, though, don’t attempt to wipe your windows down using a rag. It requires you to take your eyes off the road and will only result in obscuring your vision because it causes the moisture to smear.
Follow The Lines
When driving in fog, it’s a good idea to follow the lines on the road with your eyes. This is the best way to ensure you stay in your lane. Drivers are typically attracted to lights, and subconsciously, will steer toward lights. So it’s better to watch the lines to be certain you are driving within your lane. Just make sure you aren’t fixating. Keep your eyes moving.
That said, if you are going to use lines as guides, go for the white ones painted on the right side of the road. Following the center lines may cause you to move closer to oncoming traffic. Since everyone’s in the same boat in this situation, having another person who can barely see driving towards you may not be the most ideal of situations.
Increase Your Following Distance
A safe following distance is crucial in fog. Most drivers tend to “bunch up” during foggy conditions because they feel it’s easier to see. Driving in fog is scary, but now is not the time to follow too close. That’s one of the big reasons why massive pile-ups occur.
If You Need To Stop
Sometimes, foggy conditions become too thick to drive safely. If you find that you’re exceeding your comfort zone, it might be best to stop until the fog lifts. Just remember – this is an extremely dangerous situation! If you can’t see, neither can anyone else. Try to get as far off the road as possible. Pull into a driveway, parking lot, rest area, side street, or any other place where you can get away from heavy traffic flow. But if the roadway shoulder is your only option, pull way over. Go into the grass if necessary. If there’s a curb, drive over it and park on the other side of the curb. Stay buckled up and turn your lights off! If you leave your lights on, people might think you are driving on the roadway and rear-end you. Make sure your foot is off the brake pedal, and do not use your flashers. Keep all your lights off. If there is shelter nearby, try to get there quickly. Otherwise, stay in your car and stay buckled up.
Dense fog usually doesn’t last a long time. The fog may not completely go away, but stopping for a while should buy you some time and allow the fog to lift a bit. Dense fog tends to migrate from area to area unless you’re in a valley where fog tends to settle. If the fog just gets worse while you’re parked, stay put. It’s not worth your life to continue. But always remember, when driving in fog, stopping on the shoulder of the road should be a last resort!
Dense Fog Is Usually Temporary
Under most “normal” weather conditions, dense fog is temporary. Normally, you will encounter small patches of dense fog on mountain valleys, peaks, near moist open fields, and near bodies of water such as streams, rivers, and lakes. When the atmosphere is especially humid, you may even get patches of fog that seem to wander from place to place. During the worst conditions, normally occurring at night or during early morning hours, the fog may be very dense and cover a span of many miles. This is the most dangerous condition and is usually warned by fog advisories or warnings from the National Weather Service. When fog warnings or advisories are issued, simply do not drive (this is especially true during fog warnings). It doesn’t matter how good you and the other drivers on the roadway are, if you can’t see, you can’t possibly drive safely.