Best solution for fog? Stay off the roads

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

REGION – This time of year Alabamians get their first taste of relief from the brutal summer conditions they thought would never end.

However, as damp air moves in and reacts with the cold, damp ground a reaction occurs that becomes a hazard for drivers. When these two get together the result is often a thick layer of fog.

Every driver in the area has likely had some type of encounter with a foggy road. Some have been especially unpleasant. According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety seven people lost their lives in accidents where fog was a heavy factor in 2003.

In the same year 227 people were injured in fog related accidents. While the numbers for 2004 will not be tallied until the end of the year, the results are expected to be similar.

Drivers can’t do anything about the fog, but they can arm themselves with the knowledge to react properly.

Alabama Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Martha Earnhardt said common sense could be a driver’s biggest asset in foggy conditions.

Earnhardt said using good judgment and adapting to the conditions are a driver’s best defense.

One way to do so is to avoid foggy conditions altogether.

“The best thing people can do is avoid driving in extraordinarily foggy conditions period,” Earnhardt said. “If the fog is too heavy just stay home.”

Earnhardt also said it is very important to stay focused on aspects of driving when encountering fog.

“Keep your distractions at a minimum,” Earnhardt said. “You should never talk on your cell phone and drive anyway. This is especially true in fog. Also, make sure the radio is at a reasonable volume.

The radio won’t impair your vision, but it can take your mind off what you are doing.”

As we approach the holiday season fog becomes an even larger problem with traffic volume increases.

The glow of taillights is often not enough to warn a driver of a vehicle in their path when heavy fog blankets the highway.

Hale County Sheriff Larry Johnson said accidents generally increase this time of year because of the combination.

“Accidents certainly rise this time of year because of the increase in the volume of traffic and fog,” Johnson said. “Of course, during the holiday’s there is going to be more traffic and when you throw in fog conditions can get very dangerous.”

Earnhardt said if people must drive in the fog they should definitely adjust their driving .

“Drive according to the conditions,” Earnhardt said. “In a heavy fog you may not see another vehicle until you are right on top of them. By adjusting your speed you give yourself a better chance to react.”

Demopolis Police Chief Jeff Manuel said staying on top of the condition of your automobile equipment could also be a huge factor.

“Use your low beams,” Manuel said. “Make sure that everything is in working order and be cautious.

The first thing you need to do is slow down of course.”

For those who must drive in the fog the Alabama Department for Public Safety offers these tips:

If your car is equipped with fog lamps turn them on.

Slow down before you enter a patch of fog.

Be sure that you can stop within the distance you can see.

Turn on your wipers and defroster to remove moisture from the windshield.

Use your low-beam headlights whether it is day or night (High beams reflect off the fog and can impede visibility.)

Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.

Watch out for slow-moving or parked vehicles.

Do not change lanes or pass other vehicles unless absolutely necessary.

If you must pull off the road, signal first, then slowly and carefully pull off as far as possible.

After pulling off the road, turn on your hazard flashers.