November is usually the month famous for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, but here in California, something else is always a constant-fog causing accidents! It seems the weather patterns always bring early morning dense fog along the coastline and in the inland valleys, tule fog. Tule fog is technically radiation fog, but whatever you want to call it, various types of fogs are responsible for motor vehicle accidents at this time of the year.
Last week there was a 100 car pile-up in the San Joaquin Valley. This valley has unfortunately a history of massive weather-related accidents, and this is typical for this time of the year. However, this year it was especially devastating because the driving condition’s deteriorated so rapidly. Within an hour’s time, the visual distance while driving went from 2 miles to about 200 feet. Dozens were injured and two people died in this tragedy.
Last year in California there were over 951 injuries and 57 deaths due to fog-related auto accidents and over half of those incidences occurred over the November through March time period. Since many of these huge pile-ups occur because of excessive speeds.
Reduce your speed and increase your following distance. You must be able to stop within the visual space you can actually see ahead of you. Remember the law that requires you to have one car length for every 10 mph you are traveling? That estimate goes way down when you get into fog situations. In fact, fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when in fact, you could actually be speeding.
Drive with your lights on low beam. The lights from high beams can actually impair visibility even more by reflecting off the fog. Open your windows slightly and Listen for traffic you cannot see and use wipers and defrosters for maximum visibility.
Use the right edge of the road as a guide and be aware that in reduced visibility conditions, drivers tend to follow the tail lights of vehicles in front of them. If you must pull off the road, pull as far off of the road as possible and turn off your tail lights. Move away from the car to avoid injury.
And finally, when visibility is less than 100 feet, Caltrans will flash electronic warning signs, “Dense Fog Ahead”.