It can happen nearly anywhere and it usually appears at the most inopportune moment. That would be fog, represented by tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at ground level. Although spectacular to behold, fog can prove extremely hazardous while driving, cutting your visibility to near zero.
Driving in fog isn’t always avoidable, so here’s how to safely navigate this ground cloud weather phenomenon when you’re behind the wheel.
Reduce your speed.
As soon as you enter fog, drop your speed to suit the local conditions. Avoid sudden braking to permit drivers behind you to gradually slow down. Among the deadliest car accidents in America have been those involving scores of vehicles, including tractor trailers, buses and passenger vehicles piling up on the highways. For instance, a December 1990 fog-induced chain collision accident in Calhoun, Tennessee, took the lives of a dozen people when motorists suddenly encountered a curtain of fog with no warning.
Most new cars have automatic headlights that activate in low-light situations, such as when in fog. For everyone else, turn on your low beams only — high beams will only reflect back on you, cutting your visibility. Driving with daytime running lights isn’t enough, and turning on your headlights will also activate your tail lights. If your car has fog lights, turn them on as well.
Keep windows and mirrors clear.
Activate your wipers and turn on the defroster. Keep your windows and mirrors clear to better gauge your surroundings. You may need to drive with the windows down to increase your visibility.
Turn off the noise.
When driving in fog, your senses must be in tune with the road conditions. Turn off the radio and listen for such hazards as screeching brakes and metal on metal contact. Your full attention is needed as danger may be imminent and evasive action required.
Understand your surroundings.
Keep driving as long as you can see the road ahead, but maintain a longer following distance between vehicles. Stay as close to the right as possible, using the edge of the road to guide you. Watch for electronically operated traffic warning signs.
Leave the road.
If visibility is at zero, you need to pull over. Take the nearest exit or pull off on the shoulder as far as to the right as safely possible and wait for conditions to improve. If you’re involved in an accident, the affected motorists should turn on their flashers and move their vehicles away from traffic to prevent the start of a chain-reaction collision.
Call for help.
If you’re in an accident or witness one, attend to the needs of those involved. Assess the severity of the injuries, then call 9-1-1 to summon medical help and to request police assistance. If you have flares or triangle reflectors, set these in place to alert other drivers.
Stay situationally aware.
Always remain alert when driving regardless of the weather conditions. Avoid distracting and dangerous practices, such as texting while driving, personal grooming, inputting an address into the navigation system, or eating or drinking.
Check out all the vision and safety parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on driving in fog or installing fog lights on your vehicle, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.