British weather. It’s the topic of small talk from Lands End to John O’Groats. We worship the sun and curse the rain, and don’t seem to like much else that Mother Nature throws at us either. But, the most intriguing thing about British weather is just how unpredictable it can be.
If you’ve been driving for a considerable amount of time, you’ve probably found yourself cruising down a dual-carriageway in clear, fine weather only to suddenly plough into a wall of fog that you could never have seen coming. It can be mysterious, daunting and if you’re travelling at speed, downright scary.
So, what should you do next time? How are you supposed to drive in fog to ensure you’ll find your way back to blue skies unscathed?
What Are the Risks of Driving In Fog?
Like all severe weather conditions, fog poses its own threats to road users, regardless of their mode of transport. Some of the worst road accidents have been caused by fog, with pile-ups involving over 100 cars on record. Whether it’s adding to the list of weather worries in the winter or ruining your road trips in the unpredictable springtime, these are the biggest risks you’ll face when driving in fog:
- Reduced Visibility: The most obvious, but also most significant risk of driving in fog is a lack of visibility. If the patch of fog you’re in is particularly thick, it could reduce the visible distance ahead of you to just a few metres, or even less. This means that anything in your path – most likely to be another car – won’t be brought to your attention until it’s probably too late.
- Other Drivers: Sometimes, it’s good to drive with the mindset that any given person driving on the same road as you is not that great behind the wheel. Just because you exercise caution in foggy conditions, doesn’t mean other drivers will. You might find yourself being rear-ended by an inconsiderate driver who thought his reaction times allowed him the freedom to tailgate even if he can barely see past his front bumper.
- Car Lights: All cars are equipped with fog lights, at least on their rear, but car lights of any kind can, in a sense, add to the risk of an accident. The rear fog light has one sole purpose; to shine through thick fog so that the driver behind you can see that you’re there. The problem is, not everyone uses them. On the other hand, using regular headlights (and brake lights) in thick fog is almost entirely pointless (but please don’t turn them off), because the bulbs are simply not bright enough to penetrate through the mist. If you rely only on your standard lights, you’re not going to be helping yourself or those driving around you. Don’t use your full-beam lights either, unless you want to be confronted by a visual illusion that you’re about to drive into a solid, white wall.
How to Drive Safely In Fog
As always, when life presents a challenge, we as humans either try valiantly to surmount it, or charge blindly towards it with foolish bravado. The latter is a surefire way to crash your car, so instead, we’d recommend taking on board some advice and applying it, where appropriate, to your own driving style.
- Use Your Fog Lights: That’s literally all they’re there for… but make sure you only use them if the fog is severe enough. If you turn on your fog lights when they’re not needed, they may obscure your brake lights, and it’s likely that you’ll dazzle another driver and put them (and possibly yourself by extension) in danger.
- Drive Slower: Even if the road surface isn’t wet, slow down to improve your reaction time and shorten your braking distance if a sudden obstruction appears ahead of you.
- Open a Window: It sounds a bit unusual, but if the weather allows, open a window. Your eyes might be letting you down, but your ears won’t. With the window rolled down, you’ll be able to listen out for cars that might be getting a bit too close.
- No Sudden Braking OR Accelerating: Obviously, if the car in front of you has stopped (or crashed) then you might need to brake suddenly. The point here is to try to remain calm and aware so that you don’t brake erratically for no reason and cause the car behind you to collide. On the other hand, if you look in your rearview mirror and think the car behind you is getting too close, don’t suddenly speed up, because you may not know exactly what’s in front of you.
- Leave a Bigger Gap: This one is really important. Tailgating in fog is inexcusable, and could even be considered careless driving by police. Don’t freak out if you can’t see the car in front. It’s there. You know it’s there. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. Whatever the distance you normally give cars ahead of you, add 50% to it. The AA recommends allowing a three second gap between the car in front of you instead of two. This could quite literally be the difference between everyone on the road with you getting home safely or being caught up in a chaotic mess that makes the national news.
What to Do if You Have an Accident In Fog
If you do end up having an accident in heavy fog, despite doing all the right things, it’s important to get off the road and out of the vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. First of all, activate your hazard lights (if they haven’t turned on automatically, as some will following a crash), then look for a safe way to remove yourself from the situation.
If traffic behind you is still moving, it would not be a good idea to be on foot on the road, but if you can get your car to the side of the road and can quickly and safely escape through a door on the left (assuming you’re on a road with a similar layout to that of a motorway) then do so.
Even once you’re out of the car, you may be in danger. You should look to get yourself a safe distance away from the road, as the reduced visibility may result in vehicles colliding without even braking adequately. Once you’re out of the danger zone, call the police. If you are on a major route, it’s likely that they’ve already been notified by the authorities monitoring the stretch of road remotely. Do not attempt to return to your vehicle until it is absolutely safe to do so.
Does Car Insurance Cover Foggy Weather
Car insurance can be a confusing business. There are so many terms and conditions to wrap your head around, and so much small print to read, that sometimes it’s hard to know where you stand.
Well, the good news is that damage caused because of extreme weather conditions, including even the worst Met Office red alerts, should be covered by your insurance policy.
The bad news here is that if you do have an accident in foggy weather, your insurer will still try to find out if you were at fault. So, as long as you follow the advice above to minimise your risk, if you do have an accident, you’ll still be covered and granted a payout or repair job on the house. If you’re the cause of a 100-car pile up, however… be prepared for an uncomfortable conversation with your insurance company. And everybody else’s insurance. And maybe the police, too.
Is it Illegal to Drive With Fog Lights On When it’s Not Foggy?
Legality aside, it’s a bit careless to drive around blinding people with your brightest lights on a clear day. But, to answer the question, yes it is illegal. You can face a fine of up to £50 and a Fixed Penalty Notice for “lighting offences”. It’s ‘non-endorsable’ which means you won’t get any points on your licence, but the fine will certainly sting.
If you’ve been involved in an accident because of heavy fog, or think it’s time to upgrade to a vehicle with better safety features to keep you safe in future, take a look at how much you could get if you sell your car through Scrap Car Comparison. Our nationwide network of buyers will collect your car at no extra cost, so get a quote in just 30 seconds and sell your car as scrap or salvage today.