Driving in fog – our top tips
In September 2013 a major crash on the Sheppey Crossing near London closed the A249 for 9 hours. The crash lasted over ten minutes and involved 130 vehicles, leaving more than 60 people injured and 35 requiring hospital treatment. Remarkably, no one was killed. The cause of this epic shunt? Fog!
So how should you drive safely in the fog to avoid accidents like the Sheppey Crossing crash?
Here are our top ten tips for driving in fog:
- Drive very carefully – this may sound obvious, but even if you know the road like the back of your hand, you still need to take extra care. Foggy conditions can be very disorientating even for the most experienced driver.
- Keep your distance – it might be reassuring to be able to see the rear lights of the car in front as a point of reference when driving in thick fog, but following too closely can be highly dangerous in reduced visibility.
- Put on dipped headlights – the Highway Code recommends driving with dipped headlights on which visibility is down to less than 100m, about the length of a football pitch.
- Don’t use full beam headlights – full beam will only illuminate the fog into a white wall and make it even harder to see where you are driving.
- Use your fog lights – fog lights are designed to light the road, not the fog. Using fog lights while driving is not compulsory, but your car insurance company may want to know why you didn’t use them if you have them and are involved in a crash due to foggy conditions.
- Check your speed – without the usual visual cues it can be much harder to naturally gauge your speed while driving in thick fog.
- Reduce your overall speed – if the fog is patchy and unpredictable, reduce your overall speed to avoid suddenly hitting a dense patch too fast.
- Don’t brake when you hit fog – your natural instinct when driving into fog will be to slow down, but braking hard just means your car will unexpectedly slow down as soon as it disappears from view, which is extremely dangerous to the cars behind. However, you should touch your brakes just enough to light the brake lights as a warning that you are slowing down.
- Wind down your windows – with poor visibility, you need all the help you can get. Listening carefully for the sound of other cars, especially at junctions, is essential if you can’t see them.
- If in doubt, stop – there are no prizes for struggling on in impossible foggy conditions, so if you feel it is becoming too difficult to drive in the fog, pull over. Get the car off the road as much as possible and put your hazard warning lights on. Wait until conditions clear a little before you try again.
Of all these tips, speed is the most important. The Sheppey Crossing crash went on for more than ten minutes because vehicles were travelling far too fast for the foggy conditions and were unable to respond quickly enough to avoid the carnage. If you can’t stop within the distance that you can see, you are going too fast and need to slow down.