Category: Car Ownership article

How to Stay Safe on the Road While Driving in Fog

Did you know more than 38,700 vehicle crashes per year happen in foggy conditions? And, unfortunately, more than 16,300 people are injured in these accidents.1 This much is clear: Fog can be one of the most common causes for accidents, so here are eight tips to stay safe when driving in fog.

1. Wait it out

The best course of action is to wait until the fog lifts.2 If you can adjust your travel plans and stay off the road, you can help keep yourself safe. In most cases, fog appears in the early morning and dissipates as air warms up during the day. When the sun comes up, the air and ground warm up, and water droplets evaporate. Suddenly, visibility improves.3

If it’s impossible to adjust your plans by waiting a few hours until the fog clears, here are some precautions you can take:

2. Drive slowly

Speeding is always dangerous, but especially during foggy conditions. According to the National Weather Service, heavy fog can limit your visibility to one-fourth of a mile or less.4 You may not be able to see the car in front of you or find your next turn.

Even if you start out driving slowly, studies say drivers can get acclimated to fog and naturally speed up.2 Try to avoid this habit. Instead, always watch your speedometer and drive at a slower speed. Here are a few other tips to help prevent yourself from speeding:5

  • Give yourself more time.

    If you can, plan ahead and give yourself more travel time to reach your destination. If it’s foggy, the last thing you should do is rush.

  • Mind the speedometer.

    Not only is it important to be mindful of your speedometer while driving but also to have it checked occasionally by a professional to confirm it is working properly. Regular maintenance ensures you won’t get a false reading.

     

  • Consider the consequences of speeding.

    Remember, your safety, the safety of your passengers and other drivers on the road is the most important thing. It’s worth it to slow down to avoid accidents.

3. Avoid driving distractions

If you’re driving in fog, it’s important to be focused. Car accidents can happen in seconds, so you need to pay careful attention to what’s going on around you. To help you keep your focus on the road—and on the road only:6

  • Set your cell phone to “do-not-disturb” for texts and calls or switch it to airplane mode.
  • Preset your favorite radio stations so they’re easy to access.
  • Set your GPS before you start driving.
  • Avoid eating or doing other tasks while driving.

Fog is enough of a distraction. You need to be 100% focused to drive through it safely. To learn more about the consequences of distracting driving, read “4 Facts and Statistics About Distracted Driving – Plus Ways to Help You Stay Focused.”

 

According to the National Weather Service, heavy fog can limit your visibility to one-fourth of a mile or less.4

4. Use the low beams or fog lights

If you’re having trouble seeing ahead of you, it’s tempting to turn on your high beams. But that’s actually one of the worst things you can do in heavy fog because the light from high beams can reflect on the water drops and cause a glare. If you can believe it, your visibility will actually get worse.7

Instead, use your low beams. Or, better yet, opt for fog lights if you have them. Fog lights are placed lower than most headlights and are designed to illuminate a wider space across the road, rather than vertically.8 That said, fog lights are becoming obsolete on newer cars, unless you purchase a high-end trim or European model.9

If your car is like most American vehicles, you’ll probably need to rely on your low beams during fog. Fortunately, car headlights have come a long way in recent years. As long as you maintain them, you can trust that they’ll offer the best possible visibility.

5. Rely on the defroster and windshield wipers

Foggy weather creates the perfect conditions for condensation on your windshield, too. It happens when water in the air hits a surface that is cooler than the air temperature. Water vapor will then condense on the surface. If your windshield is cooler than the outside temperature, you may get water on the outside of your windshield. When moist air from your breath and clothes is on the inside of your car, it can fog the inside of your windshield.10

To combat these visibility issues, use your defroster and windshield wipers properly. Here are a few tips:

Defroster (to remove condensation inside the windshield):10

  • Use cold air when turning on the defroster. This will help cool down the temperature inside the car and reduce the moisture overall.
  • Turn on the A/C to help lower the temperature, as well.

Windshield wipers (to remove condensation outside the windshield):11

  • Replace your windshield wipers every six to 12 months, or as soon as they wear down.
  • Adjust the wipers so they’re at an appropriate speed. In fog, this would be intermittent or slow—only enough to remove the condensation.

Always keep these car features in good working condition. Fog can creep up quickly, so it’s especially important to be able to use them in a pinch.

6. Keep a safe distance from other cars

While you’re driving, keep a safe distance from other cars, bicycles and pedestrians on the road. You’ll also want to limit your movements as much as possible. For example, try not to change lanes, pass other drivers or take unnecessary turns. Only do what you need to arrive at your destination safely. Any other activity can put you at a high risk for colliding with another car.4

7. Use the right-side lines as a guide

During foggy conditions, it can be difficult to see the center of the road. Instead, use the right side of the road as your guide. It can help you drive straight ahead and avoid drifting into the opposite lane. Remember, it can be nerve-wracking when faced with driving in the fog. Stay calm and focused along the way.

8. If needed, use the hazard lights

Sometimes fog is so dense that you need to pull over to a safe location. It’s critical that you avoid stopping in the middle of the road. Doing so increases the likelihood that someone will rear-end your vehicle. Instead, turn on your hazard lights and slowly navigate to a safe location where you can pull over. Then, wait out the fog until it’s safe to head back to the road.7

Here’s the takeaway: Safely driving in fog is possible as long as you have some visibility and follow these tips. Try to stay calm, cool and collected along the way. Even though you can’t control fog, you can adjust your travel plans, slow down and take extra precautions. It’s worth taking extra time to stay focused—or, better yet, wait until conditions improve.

 

  • U.S. Department of Transportation, Low Visibility, 2021.
  • Smart Motorist, 7 Tips For Driving In Fog Safety, 2021.
  • Fog Doesn’t Actually ‘Burn Off’ – So What Does It Do? Forbes, 2018.
  • National Weather Service, [Resources] Social Media: Fog, 2021.
  • Car Bibles, 15 Tips To Help Stop Yourself From Speeding, 2018.
  • Avoid Distracted Driving, AARP, 2017.
  • Driving in Fog, National Weather Service, 2021.
  • Do fog lights really work, or just look cool? Road Show, 2018.
  • Fog Lights: The Latest in Obsolete Car Tech, Car Gurus Blog, 2019.
  • The Ultimate Guide on How to Defog Windows in Your Car, Your AAA Daily, 2020.
  • How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last? AutoZone, 2021.

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