Beware the dangers of driving in fog

The other morning while driving to work, I encountered my first fog bank of the season. It was visible from quite a distance away, and what appeared to be thin tendrils of mist weaving across the road soon loomed into a solid wall.

With only one other car travelling ahead of me, I dropped my speed to compensate for the approaching diminished visibility when the car ahead of me vanished into the white with an almost audible pop. One moment it was there, and the next it was gone –just like that. There were not even two faint points of red to give a hint as to where the back end of the car was.

Feeling like a character in a Stephen King novel, I further reduced my speed so by the time my vehicle was swallowed by the fog, I had reached a safe speed for the conditions. Even then, only two car lengths of road were visible.

There are certain things you can do to make a similar commute as safe as possible. Take a moment to review the following steps:

– Reduce your speed gradually and in a controlled manner so you have plenty of room to stop if you come upon an obstacle in the road. Don’t suddenly slam on the brakes or you’ll risk being rear-ended.

– High beam headlights reflect light off the moisture in the fog, making it harder to see, so use only your low beams. If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights, use them

– If visibility is limited, you can use the side of the road or the white shoulder line on the passenger side of your car to assist with navigation — avoid using the centre line, for fear a car coming in the opposite direction might be doing the same, which increases the likelihood of a collision.

– Use your windshield wipers to clear off condensation.

– Use your vehicle’s defroster, but do this slowly, because a sudden blast of warm air on the inside of the windshield can cause it to instantly fog up, effectively blinding you as a driver.

– If you catch up to another vehicle, do not pass it and do not tailgate.

– Do not stop on the roadway, because this puts you at significant risk of another vehicle’s striking you.

– If it is too dangerous to continue driving, pull off the road to a safe place and wait for the fog to lift

– Do not speed. Remember the multiple vehicle collision that occurred on Sept. 3, 1999, on Highway 401 in Ontario. Eight people died, 45 people were injured and up to 87 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction collision attributed to thick fog and heavy traffic. We have similar straight stretches of highway here in British Columbia, and we can all do our part to make them as safe as possible.

Please, slow down.

For more information on fall and winter driving tips, visit our special websites: driver education or winter driving.

Vancouver police constable Sandra Glendinning blogs at Her opinions aren’t necessarily those of the city’s police department or board.

Photograph by: Jason Kryk, The Windsor Star