How to drive safely in fog

January 20, 2022 by PEMCO Insurance
Weather-wise, Seattle and Portland are best known for their rainy reputations. However, both also rank among the foggiest major cities in the United States. Seattle averages 165 foggy days a year, with Portland coming in at 125, according to 30-year data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the World Data Center for Meteorology. That means, besides knowing how to drive in the rain, drivers also must develop skills needed to cope with the limited visibility and slick conditions that fog creates, especially during the Northwest’s cooler months.

These tips can keep you and your passengers safer when driving in fog:
  1. Slow down. That’s good advice in any kind of challenging weather, yet it’s particularly true for fog, since lower visibility means you’ll have less time to react to changing conditions around you.
  2. Increase following distance. Instead of the two- or three-second buffer you usually allow, increase it to about six seconds. Rear-end collisions are common in fog because drivers don’t see stopped or slow-moving vehicles in time to brake or avoid them.
  3. Use low beam headlights. There’s usually greater visibility near the ground, and low beam headlights will better illuminate your path. If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights (which sit lower than regular headlights), use them; however, remember to turn them off once you’re out of the fog because they can be blinding to oncoming drivers. Avoid high beams, which tend to reflect light off the fog, decreasing visibility.
  4. Turn off cruise control. In fog, as with any slick road surface, cruise control can limit your ability to sense and react to changing conditions.
  5. Roll down the window slightly and turn off the radio. You’ll be able to listen for approaching traffic. Mute electronics to avoid distraction in the challenging conditions.
  6. Don’t turn on your hazard lights. Approaching drivers may mistakenly think you’re stopped.
  7. Consider waiting it out. Foggy conditions change rapidly. Postpone your trip if you can. If you encounter dense fog while driving, consider pulling into a parking lot and waiting for it to lift before continuing.
  8. Keep your eye on the white line. The white line on the road separating your lane from the shoulder often appears sharper in low-visibility conditions than the dashed yellow line between lanes. There’s a reason it’s sometimes called the “fog line!” Use it as a guide to stay safely in your lane.
  9. Turn on your wipers. The sensors many newer cars use to automatically turn on wipers may not pick up on fog, even though mist is accumulating on your windshield. Manually turn on wipers to help clear visibility. Defrosters may help, too.
  10. Watch the temperature. Freezing fog can put a glaze of ice over the roadway. It forms in foggy conditions when temperatures on the ground are at or below freezing. If you suspect freezing fog, drive the same as you would in black ice, since ice is likely to occur in patches.

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