Bad weather makes driving more hazardous and fog can be especially dangerous. Ice, snow or even water on the road change the way that the car responds, so drivers tend to be more careful. Fog doesn’t affect the way the car handles; instead, it takes away the driver’s best source of information and restricts their ability to make safe decisions.
Considerations While Driving In Fog
Drivers make decisions based on what they can see. That’s not only what the car in front is doing, or what’s happening with the traffic lights, but also whether there’s congestion further ahead or the fact that there’s a junction sign in the distance. Fog doesn’t need to be very thick before it takes away lots of information from drivers. In fact, foggy days where visibility is only somewhat reduced can be most dangerous, as many drivers will still drive at high speed even though they’re getting no information from distant signs or traffic conditions. If you’re only getting visual information once you’re close to a situation, you’ll have less time to react, so drive more slowly.
Make sure you can see and be seen. Keep windows and screens clean and clear and use your lights. Rules for the use of fog lights vary from place to place, so make sure that you know local laws before you set off. It may be an offense to drive without them if visibility falls below a certain point, but don’t use them unnecessarily. They are extremely bright and can easily dazzle and distract other drivers. Don’t use headlights on high beam; they will reflect off the water particles in the air and make it more difficult for you to see; they will also dazzle other drivers before you can see their vehicle.
Don’t follow another vehicle too closely. It’s tempting in thick fog to follow another vehicle’s tail lights, but you might not have enough space to stop safely if they brake suddenly – which is more likely when visibility is low. Instead, use road markings to judge your position, and if you see another vehicle ahead, reduce speed. In thick fog you may not be able to tell the difference between a moving and a stationary vehicle until it’s too late.
Communicating To Other Drivers In Fog
To help other drivers work out whether you’re stopped, keep your foot on the brake pedal all the time that you’re stationary. This applies whether you’re stopped at the side of the road or waiting at a junction. If you are at a junction and you can’t see whether there’s other traffic coming, wind down your windows and listen. Obviously, this is not the time to be playing loud music on the car stereo – other road users might be able to hear you, but you certainly won’t hear them.
If you’re following another vehicle who is going slowly, be patient. Don’t attempt to overtake: you simply don’t have enough information to do that safely. They might be going slowly because of the fog, or they might be at the end of a long stream of vehicles. In poor visibility, you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Don’t Forget About Pedestrians
Be especially vigilant for pedestrians. You may not see them until the last minute, and even if you’re using your lights they will find it more difficult to judge your speed and distance and might believe they have time to cross the road safely. The safest strategy is to assume that any pedestrian you see might decide to step out in front of you.
Fog is dangerous because drivers make most of their decisions based on what they can see. Once visibility is reduced, so is the driver’s ability to make safe choices. So take extra care, reduce your speed, remember that it’s difficult in fog to tell whether the lights you see ahead are on a moving or stationary car and that pedestrians will make bad decisions too. Make sure you can see and be seen, be patient and allow plenty of extra time for your journey.