How to drive in fog

Updated Friday, October 2, 2015 I don't know what conditions are like where you are this morning, but the fog was so bad up here in North Wales that visibility on the road was down to just a few metres for pretty much all of my half-hour drive into work. And the number of drivers who'd not put their fog lights on was staggering - you literally couldn't see them until you were almost on top of them. This got me wondering whether these drivers had just not thought to put their fog lights on, or if they genuinely didn't know how to - so before we look at how to drive in fog, here's a quick recap of how to find your fog lights.

How to find your fog lights

The position of your fog lights and the switches you have to flick to operate them will vary according to your car’s make, model and year of manufacture. So take a look in your car’s handbook to find out how they’re located and then familiarise yourself with them so you know how to work them should the need arise. If you take a look at your dashboard or car’s control panel, front and rear fog lights are usually identified by the following symbols...

Front fog lights (green)

frontfog

Rear fog lights (orange)

backfog

Driving in fog

Of all the challenges winter throws at drivers, poor visibility is arguably the most dangerous – if you can’t see the road ahead you’re in trouble, and the small difference of a few miles an hour can be the difference between life and death. And if visibility quickly deteriorates, as when fog quickly descends for instance, then even sticking to the speed limit could still mean driving too fast. That’s not to say you’re doomed the second a thick fog drops. You can dramatically reduce the risk of accident by simply taking the necessary precautions and making sure you know what to do when on the road.

The dos and don’ts of driving in fog:

  • DO use dipped headlights to improve visibility and use wipers and demisters to help keep the windscreen clear.
  • DON’T tail the rear lights of other drivers as this can lead to you getting too close to the car in front and not leaving sufficient stopping distance should you have to brake sharply.
  • DO follow a three-second rule to make sure there is enough stopping distance between you and the car in front.
  • DON’T accelerate to get away from a vehicle that is too close behind you.
  • DO check your mirrors before slowing down
  • DON’T blindly stick to the speed limit – if visibility reduces make sure you slow down accordingly, dropping below the speed limit if necessary
  • DO familiarise yourself with your fog light switches (front and rear if applicable), get to know how to turn them on and off and use them when necessary. Remember, your ‘full beam’ setting is not for use in fog and shouldn’t be confused with your fog lights.
  • DON’T leave your fog lights on when visibility improves, you could dazzle other drivers and obscure your brake lights.
  • DO beware of other drivers not using headlights
  • DON’T just rely on your sight when you stop at a junction with limited visibility. Instead you should in the correct position, wind your window down and listen for traffic. When it’s safe to pull away be decisive – hesitating could leave you in the path of approaching vehicles.

What the Highway Code says

When visibility is less than 100 metres, which is 328 feet or about the length of a football pitch, the Highway Code states dipped headlights must be used. There is no obligation to use fog lights, but if don’t use them and you are involved in a smash in reduced visibility then this could be questioned by your insurer and affect the success of any subsequent claims. If you see the word ‘FOG’ displayed on a roadside signal but the road ahead is clear, be prepared for a sudden bank of fog ahead or drifting patches of fog. And don’t be any less cautious if the fog seems to be clearing, it can descend again as quickly as it lifted.

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