It really doesn’t matter how many years you have been driving, it can get pretty hairy out there when you find yourself caught in dense fog. Regardless whether you are on a motorway or driving on small country lanes, there are certain rules you should follow if you want to stay safe. In this article, we will look at the top 10 safety tips of driving in fog so the next time that thick grey mist looms over, you’ll know how to correctly use your fog lights, turn up the heat and use your ears. Sometimes it’s the most obvious tips that can really make a difference but we often overlook. Don’t get stuck in a sticky situation on the road. This article features invaluable advice that’s helpful for every level of driver.
Intrigued? Read on to discover our tips…
Probably one of the most obvious tips on this list but also the safest. If you know that the fog outside is dense and there’s extremely low visibility, then assess whether your journey is worth the risk. Is there any chance you can postpone your trip and wait out the weather? Usually fog passes within a few hours and those extra minutes could literally save you from freezing on the side of the motorway on the hard shoulder or much much worse. Additionally, be weather aware. If your journey is longer than half an hour then make a habit of reading the weather reports in advance. There are plenty of reliable weather apps and websites you can use which give you updated information regarding local weather. If the report says don’t drive…then don’t.
Time For Headlights
One of the most dangerous assumptions you can make as a driver is to assume that your car will automatically turn on its headlights when the fog is thick outside. Cars do tend to automatically turn on the headlights in low-light situations, but during foggy conditions the lighting outside tends to not dip low enough to trigger your car’s automatic response. So, don’t assume and instead double check that your headlights are on before you even think about driving further.
You’ll need to use your headlights carefully in foggy weather. Make sure that your headlamps are set on the dipped beam setting which will not only aid your visibility but will also ensure other drivers see you too. There’s a common misconception that high beams are the best type of light to use when the fog hits hard. It’s understandable that people would expect a bright light to help during low visibility but in actual fact, it does the opposite. Fog actually reflects the light back to you, and so using your high beam (or full beam) will reduce visibility and makes things significantly worse. Use dip beam lights where possible as this will counteract the reflection.
Use Your Fog Lights Responsibly
All cars are fitted with rear fog lamps and you need to switch them on when your visibility is lower than 100 metres. If you find this distance tricky to estimate, then have a look and see if you can see the tail lights of the vehicle in front, if you can’t see the lights then you’ll need to switch on your fog lights and if you can then they might not be needed. You should only use fog lights when it’s absolutely necessary, as it could be blinding for the other drivers behind you.
If you don’t know where to find your fog lights then go and have a search in your car right now, so the next time you are caught in the mist, you know exactly what to do. Take a look to see if your car has front fog lights too, these act differently and throw out a low beam which highlight the edges of the road. Knowing where these lights can be found in your car now, could save a stressful and possibly dangerous experience later.
Also worth noting is that insurers often won’t pay out if you have an accident in heavy fog and you don’t have your fog lights on.
Fog lights will actually only work when you have your headlights on, so you will need to turn these on immediately and use them responsibly too.
Remember: if the fog clears then don’t forget to turn off your headlights and fog lights. You don’t want to dazzle the other drivers around you.
This might also seem like another obvious thing to say, but when the grey fog starts to loom over it’s easy to get disorientated and lose your bearings. It’s also quite difficult to get a proper sense of speed when you don’t have an end point to focus on. Even if you’re in a hurry to get home as quickly as possible, you’ll need to just take a deep breath and slow down. It’s easy to drive along and not realise that there’s a car in front of you when the outside visibility is compromised. Driving slow will ensure that when those cars appear you have plenty of time to break without a potential collision. Another thing to watch out for when it’s thick with fog on the roads, are the parked cars. Parked cars rarely have their lights on and can be impossible to see until the last minute when they can take you by surprise. Be prepared. Drive slow.
Keep Your Distance
The point above follows perfectly onto this safety tip: keep your distance. We cannot stress the importance of this driving tip when you want to stay safe. When visibility is poor, anything can happen and you want to be prepared and have plenty of time to react accordingly. We’re all guilty of relying on the car in front of us for visibility when it’s thick with fog on the roads. It seems like a safe thing to do to follow the tail lights of the vehicle ahead as otherwise it can seem like there’s zero visibility. The problem with this, is that you have no idea what is ahead of that car. Road conditions could become worse and send the car ahead sliding across the road, do you want to be in a position where you’re right behind when this happens? Slow down and keep further distance from the car ahead than you would do normally. It’s foolish to believe that using their lights as a guide for you is safe as it’s quite the opposite.
It’s the little things that can make a difference when it comes to driving safely in foggy weather conditions. Not many people would care to admit this, but when we drive our usual daily commutes, we’re usually driving on autopilot. Not literally, but metaphorically. If you are driving with your car literally on cruise control then change this immediately as you’ll need manual control in bad weather conditions.
But what we’re really talking about here, is how we usually multi-task whilst driving without even realising that we’re doing this. We have the radio on whilst we chat to our passengers, whilst following the sat nav and operating a moving vehicle! We do this all the time and mostly it works for drivers. When the weather conditions are bad outside we need to be switched on. Now is not the time for deep conversations and listening to the radio. Slow down, make your car quiet and concentrate. When you can only see a few metres ahead then you will need every ounce of concentration to navigate the roads, even if the streets are familiar.
Stop If You Need To
It’s freezing cold, dark, foggy and you’re alone, the last thing you’ll want to do is to stop the car. However, sometimes it really is the safest option. If visibility is impossible and you feel that your safety is being compromised, then you might have to bite the bullet and wait this one out. Fog often passes fairly quickly and it could be your life on the line here, so perhaps it’s time to make a judgement call?
Knowing when to stop is one thing, knowing how to stop is quite another matter altogether.
The best possible situation would be to find a service station, get yourself a warm coffee and a bite to eat and wait until the weather improves. This, however, is an ideal stopping scenario and we’re well aware that it doesn’t always work out the way you need it to.
If the fog feels dangerous and you really need to pull over, then find a safe place to do so and pull over to the farthest point of the road possible. Immediately put on your hazard lights as other drivers are also having the same issues as you and therefore may have difficulty actually seeing your car.
Use Your Ears
No, that’s definitely not a typo. One of the most important things that you can do when visibility is bad is make the most of your other senses. Turn your radio off, ask your passengers to be silent and crack your window open a little and use your ears. This is especially useful with junctions when you can’t see anything but can hear if cars are approaching. You’ll also be able to hear if cars are driving closeby. Don’t underestimate the power of your hearing when you vision is impaired. Turning off the radio will help your concentration levels too.
There is a good reason people tell you to put on your heater when it’s foggy outside and it won’t be for the reason you think. Nothing to do with keeping warm, the real reason heat is a necessity is because the fog outside can cause condensation inside. The scary thing about condensation is that it isn’t normally something that drivers notice. The condensation can form slowly and before you know it, you have even less visibility and not even realise that some of it is completely preventable! By turning on your rear window heater and pressing the windscreen demisting button or dial you can hugely increase your visibility. Remember: every little helps in this situation.
There are many factors that make fog one of the most dangerous weather conditions for driving. Not only does it vastly reduce visibility, potentially create condensation inside the car, enable terrible driving decisions and cause panic but it also makes for hazardous roads.
Fog coats everything it encounters with a fine mist of moisture and this can make for very wet and slippery roads. Drivers may not realise this at the time as they can’t see too far ahead. When the temperature outside is freezing then this fine mist is going to turn into a not-so-visible sheet of ice and lack of visibility + icy roads = potential disaster. Just remember to be cautious, take things slowly and be patient.
The most important thing in any adverse weather condition is to be prepared. Get to know your car inside out so you know what to do when things start to get foggy. Do you know where your fog lights are located in your car? How about your rear window heater? If the answer is no, then grab your car keys and head outside now for a vital lesson in fog-preparation!
With all of these tips in mind, the second most important thing is to stay focused and make sure you have the best fog lights for your car. Also, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and stay too close to the car ahead. Use your fog lights and headlights correctly and don’t forget to use your ears.
This situation can be largely avoided however, if you stay ahead of the game by using reliable weather apps. If you know that it’s going to be severely foggy then postpone your journey or even better, cancel it. It’s just not worth the risk unless your journey is urgent.