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 is one of the most common causes for car accidents. Check out these eight tips to stay safe while driving in fog.
Wait it out
The best course of action is to wait for the fog to lift. Try to adjust your travel plans and stay off the road until the fog passes to keep yourself and others safe. Fog mostly appears early in the day, dissipating from the air and ground at sunrise. As the sun rises, the dawn’s increasing heat causes water droplets to mix out.2 Ultimately, fog evaporates and visibility improves.
If it’s impossible to adjust your plans by waiting for the fog to clear, here are some precautions to take:
Speeding is dangerous – especially during foggy conditions. According to the National Weather Service, heavy fog limits your visibility to a quarter of a mile or less.3 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 get acclimated to fog and naturally speed up.4 Try to avoid this habit. Instead, keep a watchful eye on your speedometer and drive at a slower speed. Here are reasons for speeding and how to avoid them:5
Give yourself more time.
Avoid running late by planning on giving yourself more travel time to reach your destination. If it’s foggy, the last thing you should do is rush.
Mind the speedometer.
It’s easy to lose track of the outside world and feel less constrained while driving. Regularly checking your speedometer as you’re driving is essential. In addition, regular maintenance ensures an accurate speedometer reading; be sure to have a professional check it occasionally.
Consider the consequences of speeding.
Remember, your safety, the safety of your passengers and other drivers on the road is most important.
Avoid driving distractions
Stay focused while driving in fog. Car accidents happen in seconds, so pay close attention to your surroundings. Here’s how you keep focus only on the road:6
- Set your cellphone to “Do not disturb” for texts/calls, or switch it to airplane mode.
- Preset your favorite radio stations so they’re easy to access.
- Set the GPS before you start driving.
- Avoid eating or other tasks while driving; complete them before or after your ride.
Fog is enough of a distraction. You need to be 100% focused to drive through it safely. To learn more about the consequences of distracted driving, read “4 Facts and Statistics About Distracted Driving - Plus Ways to Help You Stay Focused.
Use the low beams or fog lights
It’s natural to turn on the high beams when there’s low visibility on the road. But that’s actually one of the worst things to do in heavy fog. The light from high beams reflects on the water drops and causes a glare, worsening your visibility.7
Use low beams or fog lights in this situation. Fog lights are placed lower than most headlights and are designed to illuminate a wider space across the road, rather than vertically.8
If your car is like most American vehicles, you’ll probably rely on your low beams. Fortunately, car headlights have come a long way in recent years. Keep up maintenance on your lights to guarantee the best possible visibility.
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 then condenses 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.9
To combat these visibility issues, use your defroster and windshield wipers properly. Here are a few tips:
Defroster (to remove condensation inside the windshield):9
- Use cold air when turning on the defroster to cool down the temperature inside the car and reduce moisture.
- Turn on the AC to lower the temperature.
Windshield wipers (to remove condensation outside the windshield):10
- Replace your windshield wipers every six to 12 months, or as soon as they wear out.
Adjust the wipers to an appropriate speed. In fog, this would be intermittent or slow —enough to remove condensation.
Always keep these car features in good working condition. Fog can creep up quickly, so it’s especially important to use them in a pinch.
Keep a safe distance from other cars
While driving, keep a safe distance from other cars, bicycles and pedestrians on the road. Also limit your movements as much as possible. For example, try not to change lanes, pass other drivers or take unnecessary turns. Do what’s necessary to safely reach your destination. Any other activity puts you at a high risk for colliding with another car.4
Use the right-side lines as a guide
In foggy conditions, it’s difficult to see the center of the road. Instead, use the right side of the road as your guide. It can help you drive in line and avoid drifting into another lane. Remember, driving in fog is nerve-wracking. Remain calm and focused.
If needed, use the hazard lights
Sometimes fog is so dense that you need to pull over to a safe location. Avoid stopping in the middle of the road, as it increases the chance of someone rear-ending your vehicle. Instead, turn on your hazard lights and slowly navigate to a safe location to pull over. Then, wait out the fog until it’s safe to head back on the road.7
Here’s the takeaway: safely driving in fog is possible with some visibility and by following these tips. Stay calm, cool and collected along the way. Even though you can’t control fog, you can control your travel schedule, speed and extra precautions. It’s worth taking extra time to stay focused — or, better yet, wait until conditions improve.
1U.S. Department of Transportation, Low Visibility, 2021.
2 The Weather Prediction, Fog Dissipation.
3 National Weather Service, [Resources] Social Media: Fog, 2021.
4 Smart Motorist, 7 Tips For Driving In Fog Safety, 2021.
5 NHTSA, Speeding, (post-2020 based on facts in the article).
6 AAA, Tips for Preventing Distracted Driving, (no date provided).
7 Driving in Fog, National Weather Service, 2021.
8 Advance Auto Parts, Everything You Should Know About Fog Lights, 2021.
9 The Ultimate Guide on How to Defog Windows in Your Car, Your AAA Daily, 2020.
10 How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last? AutoZone, 2021.