Most central San Joaquin Valley residents have known about tule fog since we were kids. Driving in heavy fog is like driving with a blindfold on. Statistically, it’s the most dangerous driving hazard.
Have you heard the saying: “What you can’t see can kill you”? Fog is one of those driving hazards you forget about until it sneaks up on you.
I know we all have to work, and our bosses are not going to allow us to stay home on a “fog day.” Some of your jobs require you to drive all day, and for you stay-at-home moms, you have to take the kids to school, head to the grocery store, stop at the church and maybe even take kids to activities. Many times you have no choice but to drive, foggy or not.
No matter how important the trip is, it is not worth gambling with your life. Here are a few tips about driving in the fog and how to make those trips safer:
▪ Many collisions result from driving too fast, so slow down. It’s a simple matter of physics – your vehicle can’t stop as fast or turn as accurately on wet pavement. Fog creates wetness on the roadway.
Also with fog, your vision is impaired, and what you can’t see can hurt or kill you or other motorists. Watch for CHP pace vehicles guiding traffic through the fog. Do not pass the CHP officer. They are setting the safe speed for travel.
Stay 300 feet away from patrol vehicles. They may brake suddenly or make a sudden turn. Take it slow and easy to get where you are going safely.
▪ When driving in the fog, turn on your low-beam headlights. Low beams direct the light down onto the roadway and allow for other drivers to see you. Do not use your high-beam headlights. High beams direct the light up into the fog, making it difficult for you to see.
▪ If you leave the road for any reason, pull completely off. Turn off your driving lights and turn on your flashers so others know you’re there but won’t think you are driving. Whatever you do, do not turn off your headlights during foggy conditions – other drivers depend on seeing your lights.
Newer vehicles have daytime running headlights, but those don’t turn on the rear lights. Remember to turn on your headlights when it is foggy so your taillights are on, too.
▪ That white line on the right edge of the roadway is there for a reason – in fact, it is called a fog line. Use the fog line as a guide instead of the center lines on the roadway. Do not solely focus on the fog line, but continue to look up and ahead of your headlights to see possible dangers or vehicles braking suddenly. Use your windshield wipers and turn your defroster on to help eliminate dew on the windows.
▪ Foggy driving danger becomes greater in the evening because vision is diminished in the dark. Try to get to a safe location before nightfall, but if you can’t, it is even more important to be aware of your surroundings.
Before leaving on a trip, check the road conditions. One way to check is to call 800-427-7623. An easy way to remember this number is 800-GAS-ROAD. Watch the news; pay attention to the weather forecast. Fog is unpredictable – nothing is an exact – but we have to be aware and always drive defensively.
The best advice for driving in the fog is to drive only if absolutely necessary, and if you have to drive, to drive safely. Keep your eyes up and maintain a high visual horizon.
On behalf of the California Highway Patrol, I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and safe holiday season.
California Highway Patrol Officer Traci Gallian’s “On Duty” column publishes bimonthly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.