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Tips For Safe Driving in Dense Fog

Colburn Law

What Do You Do when Driving in Dense Fog?

If you’ve lived in Washington for long, you’re sure to have encountered a bout of fog. Dry, windless conditions following bad weather in the Evergreen State can generate a blanket of fog that hangs over cities such as Seattle for days at a time. The fog is relatively harmless – unless you plan on driving. Operating a vehicle in foggy conditions comes with unique visibility problems and car accident risks. Before you leave your house in dense fog, read these tips for safe driving. If you can, avoid driving at all during particularly bad conditions.

What Lights Should I Use in Fog?

Which lights to use in dense fog causes a great deal of confusion for Washington drivers. Even seasoned residents sometimes mix up the rights and wrongs of which lights to use in fog. Instinct may tell you to use brighter lights due to the heavy, dark blanket of fog blocking out the light. This, however, is dangerous and incorrect.

Your high beams will reflect off the tiny particles of water in the fog, turning them opaque. This can seriously impede your vision, cause you to drive off the road, or lead to a vehicle collision. When driving through dense fog, use low-beam headlights (or fog lights, if your vehicle has them) to see without risking reflected light. Fog lights have special clear or yellow lenses to project light that will pierce through the fog instead of reflecting.

Fog lights also project light in a wide, flat pattern that stays low – usually extending beneath the fog instead of shining directly into it. Figure out whether you have fog or driving lights before you hit the road if you’re expecting fog. Turn your low-beam lights on even during the daytime in foggy conditions. That will make it easier for other drivers to see you despite limited visibility.

Speed and Distance Matter

Once you have the correct lights on, focus on your speed and driving distance. Going too fast in foggy conditions can set you up for colliding with other vehicles, objects, or pedestrians. Since you may only be able to see a few feet in front of you, slow down in case an obstacle unexpectedly comes into your range of vision. You may not see a stopped car or crossing child until it’s directly in front of you. Driving slowly can give you enough time to hit your breaks and avoid a collision.

If you’re driving in traffic, leave ample distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Don’t rush or tailgate, as you may not be able to see the vehicle coming to a stop in front of you right away. Extra room could mean the difference between coming to a stop and rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination if you know you’ll be driving in fog.

Do Windshield Wipers Help in Fog?

Yes. The conditions while driving in dense fog can lead to moisture collecting on your windshield and causing a glare that’s difficult to see through. Use your windshield wipers on a low setting to prevent condensation from building up on the glass. Moisture won’t only be outside your vehicle – it will be in the interior air as well. Adjust your defroster as necessary to eliminate condensation forming on the inside of your windshield. If you can’t see, pull over in a safe location and adjust your settings until you solve the problem.

Stay Off the Road If It’s Too Dangerous

Sometimes fog lights or windshield wipers don’t help in particularly dense fog. If you can’t see well enough to feel confident in your driving ability, turn your hazards on and slowly pull to the side of the road when safe to do so. Get far enough off the roadway to be safe from oncoming vehicles that might not be able to see you. You should exit the road if you’re constantly drifting out of your lane, or if conditions are cold enough to potentially turn condensation into black ice. When in doubt, stay home!