Driving conditions can quickly become treacherous when fog rolls in, reducing visibility and making it difficult to gauge distances. This can increase the risk of accidents and injury on the road.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 600 people die every year in the U.S. in fog-related accidents. The more than 38,700 crashes in foggy conditions also cause around 16,300 injuries each year.
Knowing how to navigate your vehicle through fog safely can help prevent accidents, making Indiana roads less dangerous for all drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Slow Down: Prioritize Safety Over Speed
Reducing your speed is the most critical action you can take when driving in fog. Many drivers underestimate the impact of fog on visibility, believing that their familiarity with the road or driving skills will effectively prevent a collision. This is a dangerous assumption that heightens the risk of an accident.
High speed gives you less time to react to unexpected obstacles, whether another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a sudden turn. Having additional reaction time is invaluable in foggy conditions, when visibility can be reduced to just over half a mile or worse.
Use Low-Beam Headlights, Not High Beams
One common misconception among drivers is that the brighter the light, the better the visibility, especially in foggy conditions. However, using high-beam headlights in fog is not just ineffective; it can make conditions more dangerous for you and other drivers.
Fog consists of tiny water droplets suspended in the air. When the intense light from high-beam headlights hits these droplets, it scatters and reflects, producing glare. This glare can make it extremely difficult to see what’s ahead, further reducing your visibility.
Low-beam headlights aim downward, producing a flatter, wider light beam than high beams. This helps limit the amount of light that is reflected back toward you, improving your visibility.
If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights, these provide the best visibility. Fog lights are positioned low on the car and have a wide, flat beam designed to cut through fog and illuminate the road beneath it.
Increase Your Following Distance
In clear weather conditions, the general rule is to maintain a three-second following distance from the vehicle in front of you. But those three seconds may not be enough when fog blankets the road. Extending your following distance in foggy conditions to at least five seconds gives you more time to react to sudden stops, sharp turns, or unexpected hazards.
Pick a stationary object ahead, like a road sign or a tree, to gauge your following distance. When the rear bumper of the car in front of you passes that object, start counting. You should reach the object no sooner than five seconds later. If you arrive sooner, you’re following too closely and should reduce your speed to increase the gap between your vehicles.
In fog, drivers often engage in “cluster driving,” huddling close to other vehicles in a misguided attempt to improve safety. This behavior is risky and increases the chances of multi-car pile-ups. Maintain your extended following distance even if other drivers are clustering; losing sight of the crowd is better than becoming part of a larger accident.
Listen as You Look
When visibility is severely compromised, sound can be your early warning system. The sound of engines, horns, or even tires against the road can alert you to other vehicles or obstacles. These auditory cues can give you a few additional, critical seconds to react, even before you see the potential hazard.
While it might be comforting to have the radio or a podcast playing, this can be a major distraction when driving in fog. Instead, roll your windows down slightly to let exterior sounds in; even a small opening can enhance your ability to hear what’s happening around you.
Use the Right Edge of the Road as a Guide
The right edge of the road is often the safest point of reference in poor visibility for several reasons. Primarily, it keeps you safe from oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. Secondly, if a vehicle comes up behind you, you’re already positioned to move further to the right and allow them to pass safely.
Additionally, many roads have reflective markers or painted lines along the edges to indicate the boundary of the road. These can be helpful in foggy conditions, as they’re designed to be visible in low light and poor weather.
While using the right edge as a guide, scan your environment, check your mirrors, and listen for auditory cues. Also, pay attention to road signs that can guide you on the roadway, like those indicating upcoming curves or intersections.
Don’t Stop on the Road
Stopping on the road, especially without moving to a designated area like a shoulder or pull-off spot, makes you a potentially hidden obstacle for other drivers. The fog has already reduced visibility and reaction time; a stopped car in the roadway becomes a high-risk factor for collisions.
If you find it necessary to stop, pull off the road into a safe area that’s well away from the flow of traffic. Use your indicators in advance to signal your intentions to other drivers. Once off the road, turn on your hazard lights to make your vehicle more visible to other motorists.
If you find it too difficult to continue driving, look for places like parking lots, rest stops, or service stations where you can wait safely until conditions improve. This is far safer than stopping in the middle of the road or even on the shoulder, where you’re still at risk of being hit by another vehicle.
Use Technology Wisely
In-vehicle technology can be a benefit for drivers navigating through a fog. These devices offer advanced systems like GPS for route guidance and lane-departure warnings for maintaining your position on the road.
However, these tools should only complement, not replace, traditional safe-driving practices. Technology has limitations and should not be solely relied upon, especially in challenging conditions like fog.
While you may want to rely on your vehicle’s high-tech features, your own attentiveness and judgment are just as valuable in weather conditions like fog. Use technology to assist you, but stay alert and always maintain control of your vehicle.
Protect Your Interests After a Crash in Foggy Conditions
While you can take every precaution available, you can’t control the actions of other drivers. If you are injured in a fog-related car accident due to another driver’s negligence, meet with our Indiana car accident lawyers at Wagner Reese.
We specialize in helping victims of auto accidents get the compensation they deserve. During a free consultation, we can review the details of your accident and offer advice on your next legal steps.
Let us work on your behalf after a crash in foggy conditions. Call our law firm today for a complimentary case review to learn your options for compensation.