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From California to Florida, DOTs Urge Extreme Caution When Driving in Fog

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The fog season in Central California extends from November through February, and the experts at Caltrans—California’s Department of Transportation—say motorists quickly forget how difficult it can be to safely drive through low-visibility conditions brought on by foggy weather. Caltrans advises locals to:

  • Be patient and don’t pass long lines of traffic in fog.
  • Don’t stop in the travel lanes if visibility diminishes to a point that you can no longer proceed. Attempt to utilize the closest off-ramp which will afford you a safe location to stop and wait for the fog to clear.
  • Steer to the right and onto the shoulder (or further to the right if safe and practical). Turn off your lights and remain stopped until visibility improves.
  • If your car stalls or is disabled, turn off your lights, exit your vehicle and move away from it to avoid injury.

In the Southeast, January can be a very hazardous time for drivers. In Florida, particularly, chain-reaction collisions on major arteries have occurred in recent years and the common element in these deadly crashes is smoke-fog: a common phenomenon in Central Florida and much of the Southeastern U.S. It’s an impenetrable combination of fog and smoke that forms in minutes.

It forms so quickly, authorities typically cannot close roadways until it’s too late. Also called superfog and fog-smoke, it occurs when smoke from wildland fires builds up overnight and combines with morning radiation fog.

Smoke-fog occurs most often during Central Florida’s cool season, when nights are long, mid-level air is dry, high pressure resides for extended periods and rain is relatively rare. During this season, especially from March to May, but starting as early as January, wildfires are common.

Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles advises motorists as follows:

  • Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more. Your lights help other drivers see your vehicle, so be sure they all work. Keep your windshield and headlights clean, to reduce the glare and increase visibility.
  • Slow down and watch your speedometer before you enter a patch of fog. Be sure that you can stop within the distance that you can see. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding. Speed is a major factor in fog-related crashes.
  • Watch out for slow-moving and parked vehicles. Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.
  • Reduce the distractions in your vehicle. Turn off the radio and cell phone. Your full attention is required.
  • Use wipers and defrosters liberally for maximum visibility. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if poor visibility is due to fog or moisture on the windshield.
  • Be patient and avoid passing and/or changing lanes.
  • Signal turns well in advance and brake early as you approach a stop.

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