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The Dos and Don’ts of Driving in Fog

By Kellie Davenport

Snow, ice and heavy rain aren’t the only culprits when it comes to weather-impaired driving: Thick, soupy fog causes collisions in Alberta every year; it’s particularly dangerous because it typically occurs outside of daylight hours, in the early morning or late evening. “The result is reduced visibility, slick roads and unseen obstacles,” says Ryan Lemont, AMA’s manager of driver education.

When motorists don’t adjust to driving in these potentially perilous conditions, roadways become ripe for collisions and pileups. To clear up the confusion, Lemont suggests the following tips for safe driving in fog.

DO check weather and before you leave. Environment Canada issues fog advisories when near-zero visibility is expected or occurring. If there’s an advisory, consider waiting for fog to lift before getting behind the wheel.

DON’T forget where fog is most common. While it can form anywhere, low-lying areas near bodies of water are particularly prone to fog.

DO ensure your wipers are in good working condition and wiper fluid is topped up to help clear mist from windows.

DON’T speed. Slow down—it’s the first and most important thing you should do in fog. Drive below the posted speed limit in order to leave plenty of stopping distance between your vehicle and those around you. “In foggy conditions, you might only see 10 or 20 metres ahead of you,” Lemont says. “That’s not a lot, especially if you’re driving at highway speeds.” Traction could also be an issue, requiring slower speeds: Depending on the time of year, you could experience freezing conditions on road surfaces.

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DO turn your lights on at any time of day or night. While most vehicles now come equipped with daytime running lights, they provide minimal light in the front and sides and no taillight illumination, masking your vehicle from traffic behind you. Flip your low beams on for optimal visibility for you and the vehicles around you.

DON’T use your high beams. The brighter light will reflect off the foggy mist and bounce light back at you, impairing your visibility and that of oncoming motorists.

DO follow the fog line. That white line near the right shoulder of the road is known as the fog line. “Your vehicle will always go where you’re looking,” Lemont says. “Staring at the centre line will draw you closer to the middle, which could lead to a head-on collision.” Instead, use the right-hand fog line to guide your steering.

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DON’T keep driving if conditions worsen. If you find yourself needing to slow to half the posted speed limit or more, pull well off the roadway into a parking lot or service centre. “Never stop in the roadway or on the shoulder, which could cause collisions with other vehicles,” Lemont adds. Stay put until the fog dissipates.

DO watch for animals. Deer and other road-crossing wildlife may feel a false sense of security in foggy conditions, and are more apt to linger on roadways. Be prepared to stop for animals shrouded in the mist.

DON’T forget to watch for emergency vehicles and tow trucks. Roadside assistance vehicles, like those operated by AMA, will flash yellow and blue lights when stopped near the road. But they can be tricky to see through fog. Always be prepared to slow down and move over for emergency and roadside vehicles.