While we are well into the fog season, it goes without saying that we should never become too “comfortable” when driving in reduced visibility conditions. Road awareness and vigilance should not diminish as we become more accustomed to the fog. One year ago, there was a 50-plus car pile-up on 198, just outside of NAS Lemoore, that launched a chain-reaction of accidents that resulted from the unsafe fog-related, driving habits of only one or two vehicles. Now is an ideal time to refresh fog driving principles and remind us of some critical safety considerations that will benefit everybody on the road.
Driving in heavy fog is like driving with a blindfold. Statistically, it is the most dangerous driving hazard in existence. Some fog in this area has reduced visibility down to 25 feet. No matter how important the trip, your life, or someone else’s life, is not worth the risk. By far, the safest thing to do if you run into heavy fog is to move well-off the road and wait for the fog to lift. However, that is not always the practical solution. If you must keep driving, read below for some safe-driving procedures that could save your life or someone else’s life.
Slow Down to Allow a Safe Stopping Distance: Most fog-related traffic fatalities occur because someone was driving too fast and could not stop in time to avoid a collision. When driving in fog, reduce your speed. If you cannot see where you are going, do not try to go there quickly. Give your mind and body time to react to the unknown. Use your speedometer as a guide to regulate your speed because thick fog masks the sensation of speed by removing visual indicators of velocity. Studies have shown that some drivers acclimate themselves to foggy conditions and unconsciously increase their speed over time.
Make sure you can be seen: Turn on your headlights. When visibility is restricted, we naturally tend to turn on the high-beam headlights. However, that is not the ideal solution for driving in the fog. Low-beams are preferred as the high-beam illumination reflects off the fog and back to the vehicle, further impairing visibility. When possible, use fog lights. They illuminate the road and make your vehicle more visible to other vehicles. It is just as important to be seen by others as it is to see when driving in the fog.
You might have to turn your lights on manually as it is not dark enough to activate the sensor that automatically turns on your headlights. When possible, turn on your headlights before you start driving in the fog. Again, it cannot be emphasized enough, you are not necessarily using your headlights to see, rather you are using them to be seen by those with whom you share the road. Day or night, use your car’s headlights in all fog conditions, and do not rely on your parking lights alone. They do nothing to increase your visibility in daytime fog. However, using your defroster and windshield wipers in foggy conditions will help keep the windows clear and improve visibility. The problems of driving in fog become greater at night. Remember to turn your lights off after reaching your destination – most of us use automatic and lose that protection if in manual mode.
Use the Right Side of the Pavement Line as a Guide: In thick fog, use the white line painted on the right side of the road (aka the fog line) as a guide. Do not use the center pavement markings as to avoid running into oncoming traffic or becoming distracted by opposing traffic headlights.
Do Not Stop on the Road: When you cannot see where you are going, a natural reaction is to slow down or even stop. In foggy conditions, never stop on the road. If visibility diminishes to the point that you can no longer proceed, do not stop in the travel lanes. Find a safe place to pull over that is as far away from traffic as possible. Attempt to use the closest off-ramp. It will afford you a safe location to stop and wait for the fog to clear. If an off-ramp is not available, steer to the right and onto the shoulder, being sure to pull off completely. Once you have come to a complete stop, turn off your lights as leaving your lights on may cause motorists to think that your taillights indicate the lane of travel. This could cause a collision.
Be Considerate of Other Drivers: Think about what other drivers see when they are behind you. If you drive with your emergency flashers on or keep tapping your brake pedal, you make others nervous. They may try to pass you, a procedure that places both your and the other driver’s life in danger. Always keep your headlights on, drive in a safe and predictable manner, be gentle with your brakes, use your signals and give other drivers some space. You are just as responsible for the safety of other drivers as yourself in foggy conditions.
Drive safely, and continue to look after yourselves as well as those around you.
All my best,
Captain David James,
Commanding Officer, NAS Lemoore