How to Reduce Hazards in Foggy Conditions
Foggy conditions are some of the most dangerous to be moving through, whether you’re driving, flying or hiking. Reduced visibility not only impacts our ability to see ahead, but it can also disorient us and cause light to refract and impair our vision. Aside from ice, alcohol and reckless driving, fog and reduced visibility is responsible for more injuries and deaths than almost any other adverse meteorological condition out there. Let’s take a closer look at fog and how you can minimize risk when you’re suck in low-visibility situations.
Fight Your Urge to Speed
For some reason, people tend to want to speed up when they enter foggy conditions. Some think this is because we lose our bearings and ability to judge speed by looking at objects as they pass by. Others think that things appear slower as we move through thick fog, and this is what causes us to subconsciously speed up. No matter the reason, it’s important to keep an eye on your speedometer as you’re driving through fog in order to make sure that you are not being duped into speeding as well.
Another reason to slow down and avoid speeding is that you may not be able to react appropriately by the time an obstruction appears in your windshield. Whether it’s a downed tree, curve in the road, animal or another vehicle, you may have less than a second to react before impact once the obstruction becomes visible. Depending on how fast you’re driving, this can translate into being able to either stop or take evasive action in time or having a collision that could lead to injury or death.
Use Your Lights
Many people are under the impression that they should turn off their headlights as a way to avoid being blinded by the fog. While the glare from headlights can interfere with visibility to a certain degree, it’s important to remember that your head and tail lights may be the only thing that is making you visible to other vehicles.
However, it’s important to remember to not use your high beams in fog, which is also another common misconception. High beams will most-definitely impair your vision as the beams reflect off of the fog, and they can also cause glare which can impair the vision of other motorists.
Look for Road Markings
If you are in really low-visibility conditions and there is not a lot of traffic to guide you, glance to your left and right and try to look at the road markings. Do you see the lane dashes? Do you see medians? Do you see the stripes that indicate where the right side of the road ends and the shoulder begins? Remember that not every road has reflectors on top of lane dividers, and many roads are incredibly dark in foggy conditions. Looking for road markings can help you to stay in your lane and avoid drifting into the path of other vehicles.
Getting off the Road
Obviously, the safest bet is to avoid driving once you encounter dense fog, but sometimes it creeps up on us unexpectedly. These are some of the most dangerous times to be behind the wheel as options are limited with respect to where to pull off and wait until visibility improves. Some people say to slow down and move to the right lane whereas others say to put on your flashers until you can pull off the road completely. There are no right or wrong answers, and it’s up to you to use your situational awareness and good judgment in terms of deciding what to do.
Ideally, you want to get off the road and as far from the flow of traffic as possible. If you can safely get off and find a driveway, parking lot, expanse of grass or wide shoulder, you can dramatically reduce your chances of being struck by another vehicle. However, the trick is to find a suitable location in low visibility conditions while also trying to drive and look out of other motorists or hazards at the same time. When you do pull off the road, turn off your headlights and take your foot off the brake petal. The main reason for this is that you don’t want to accidentally confuse other motorists into following you if they think you are still on the road.
Finally, if you need to stop while on the road, try to do it as slowly and deliberately as possible. While this won’t guarantee that someone behind you will not crash into you, it will dramatically decrease the chances of this occurring.
Fortunately, dense fog do not generally last for long periods of time. Chances are that you will be able to get to your destination safely if you follow these guidelines or avoid traveling under these conditions altogether. The important lesson to take away from this is that fog is dangerous as much as it is also serene and beautiful. Stay focused on driving, slow down, maintain good situational awareness and admit when it’s best to pull off the road and wait until visibility improves.