The dangers of fog while behind the wheel

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FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Excessive heat is the number one weather killer across the country. Behind that flooding, tornadoes, and lightning. But you may be surprised just how deadly fog can be on the roads every year.

It’s something some call eerie and mysterious, while others may think it’s tranquil and calming. Sometimes it’s pretty, but fog can also be very dangerous.

According to data collected by the Federal Highway Administration, there were 25,451 crashes, 8,902 injuries, and 464 deaths due to fog related accidents between the years of 2007-2016.

Often the National Weather Service issues “Dense Fog Advisories” when visibility is very low. Sometimes local schools even issue starting delays when there are cases of dense fog. Superintendent of South Vermillion Community School Corporation, Dave Chapman, tells me their number one priority is keeping everyone safe.

“Remember that we are doing this for the safety and well-being of our students and our staff,” Chapman says. “We know everybody still needs to go to work, we understand that, but we have an obligation to the safety for those kids that are out on the busses, standing at the bus stops, the student drivers, and we want to make sure that they have an opportunity to arrive to school in a safe and efficient manner.” 

Superintendent of Southwest School Corporation, Chris Stitzle, also says the prime concern is ensuring safety.

“It can be almost zero visibility a lot of times in the New Lebanon and Merom area but there’s hardly anything in Sullivan, but you still have to delay because you have bus routes everywhere,” Stitzle says.

Both superintendents say they take multiple precautions like waking up early to check the weather forecasts and take a team approach by talking to other local area superintendents to discuss options for that day.

Indiana State Police Public Information Officer Sergeant Matt Ames says there are many precautionary steps you can take to stay safe on the roads when it’s foggy out.

“As a normal traveling distance is a two second rule, we believe that you need to increase your following distance to at least five seconds,” Sgt. Ames says. “Make sure you are driving with a lot of caution. And one thing that we do suggest is that when you’re on a county road like here on U.S. 41, and you’re coming up to it and you’re attempting to turn to go North or go South, take the opportunity to roll your windows down and use the sense of hearing to see whether or not there’s another vehicle coming, if the fog is so thick that you cannot see the visibility of the headlights that are coming.”

Another very important step drivers need to take when encountering fog is that they make sure their low beam headlights are on. This allows you to see the roadways better and other motorists traveling see your vehicle better as well. When you put your brights on, you reflect off all the moisture that’s in the air, so you won’t be able to see the road as well nor will other drivers be able to see your vehicle. Sgt. Ames says there are certain things you can look for on the roadways to help you out during foggy conditions, “One of the other things that the roadway is designed for is, if you’re traveling down and you can’t see very well, make sure that you’re using the panning and the reflectors on U.S. 41, or the interstate, that’s allowing you to assure where your lane is at and that way you’re keeping it inside your lane and not traveling all over the roadway.”

Indiana State Police have responded to at least a dozen fog related accidents in the last year, none were very serious because people were traveling at a reduced speed and not multi-tasking while driving. Sgt. Ames says another key reminder is to not pull over, “If you’re traveling down the road, and the fog becomes so thick, don’t pull over to the side of the road and activate your hazard lights. You still run into the concerns of someone coming up behind you and not seeing you till the last second and running into the rear end. Please get your vehicle off the roadway, wait for the fog to lift a little bit more, and when you feel comfortable as the driver of that vehicle, then continue to your destination.”

So if you are behind the wheel and encounter dense fog, reduce speed, use your low beam headlights, and leave plenty of distance from other vehicles in front of you.

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