A refresher on handling a common Bellingham driving condition

This morning brought a familiar sight to Bellingham drivers: fog. Now that fall is upon us, many mornings commuters will face foggy road conditions. Northwest drivers should be used to driving through fog. But since human error factors into 94% of car crashes, it's best to pay attention to best driving practices no matter what. Here are a few refreshers:

Slow Down

Don't just follow the posted speed limit. Those are guidelines, not laws. Observing the posted limit would not serve as a useful defense if you crashed because you were driving too fast for the conditions. Posted speed limits are determined by a complex calculation, but generally are set by engineers assuming dry roads. This makes posted speed limits faster speeds than most drivers would intuitively feel comfortable driving at in adverse weather conditions. Fog obviously qualifies as poor, wet road conditions. Fog significantly limits a driver's line of sight, so pay attention to your speedometer instead of road markers to determine how fast you're driving. 

Use Low-Beam Lights

One would naturally think that when it gets harder to see, use more light. This is not the case when driving in fog. High beams bounce off of fog and obscure the road even more. Low beams should instead be used. 

Use Right Side Pavement Line as a Guide

When the fog is very thick, you might naturally look towards the middle of the road to guide you. 

It may be an unconscious reaction to look towards the middle road pavement lines to guide you in fog. You want to keep driving on the road even though you can't really see it, right? However, your car will be directed in the direction your eyes look, so drivers often drift too close to the center of the road in fog. If the driver coming opposite you who can't see any better than you also does this, a head-on or broadside collision may occur. Avoid this by using the right-side pavement lines as a guide. 

Never Stop on the Roadway

I hope this tip is obvious, but stopping on the road in foggy conditions is terribly dangerous. Of course driving in fog is scary, and a driver may want to stop the car completely, or slow down drastically. However, this may not be what the driver coming up from behind is expecting, and would not have enough time to react and avoid a read-end collision. However, it is also unsafe to pull over onto the road's shoulder. Like in this case in which my client experienced devastating injuries because the driver could not see an obstruction on the roadside due to fog and inebriation. A better idea is to turn off onto a side road or exit the highway. If you must pull over onto the shoulder of the road, turn off your headlights. If you leave your lights on, an approaching motorist may think your vehicle is in motion, in a lane of traffic, even if you are pulled to a stop on the shoulder of the road.

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