With the recent weather conditions, grass fires and fluctuating temps drivers should
be prepared to make adjustments for smoke or fog
With the unfortunate events with widespread grass fires in the state AAA would like to remind motorists to make adjustments when encountering smoke. Driving in smoke/fog can feel like driving while wearing a blindfold. Objects, such as other vehicles or traffic signals, may not be visible until the last moment – sometimes too late to take proper corrective action
The two most important safety measures when you are driving in smoke/fog are to slow down and turn on your low-beam headlights. By reducing speed, you increase available reaction time. And driving with your low-beam headlights on helps you to see the roadway more clearly and increases your visibility.
“According to a 2014 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety variations in the prevalence of fog- and smoke-related fatal crashes are also seen when looking at land use and roadway type” said Jim Hanni, AAA Spokesperson. “Prevalence is greater in rural areas – where such crashes account for nearly two percent of fatal crashes – than in urban ones, where less than one percent of fatal crashes are accounted for by fog,” added Hanni. Additionally, undivided, two-way roadways see a greater share of fog- and smoke-related crashes than do divided or one-way roads.
Another pattern seen in the national data with regard to fog- and smoke-related crashes pertains to the number of vehicles involved. For single-vehicle fatal crashes, as well as fatal crashes involving 2-5 vehicles, the prevalence of fog as a factor is relatively low and fairly consistent, ranging from 1.40 percent to 1.47 percent. For crashes involving six to nine vehicles, however, the prevalence more than triples, to 4.37 percent. While such crashes are indeed rare (215 occurred over the 20-year study period, compared with more than 482,000 fatal single-vehicle crashes), the alarming spike in prevalence suggests that fog and smoke are indeed risk factors for this horrific and lethal crash type.
Additional tips for driving in fog/smoke
- Use your windshield wipers to increase your visibility and reduce glare from oncoming vehicles.
- If your vehicle is equipped with daytime running lights (DRLs), you may need to manually turn on your headlights, so your tail lights will also be illuminated.
- Avoid sudden stops – and remember that larger vehicles need more distance to slow down or stop.
- If you must stop, steer off the roadway as far as safely possible.
- In severe smoke/fog, emergency flashers may help increase your visibility to other drivers. (Check state laws regarding use of flashers while moving.)
Despite the relatively low prevalence of fog- and smoke-related fatal and police-reported crashes, and a general decreasing trend in such crashes over the past two decades, fog and smoke remain significant threats to highway safety given the particularly insidious ways in which these conditions appear to impact driver perceptions and behaviors. Given the increased likelihood of crashes in the presence of fog and smoke – and, most troubling, the increase in severe and multi-vehicle crashes – fog and smoke should be treated as serious safety concerns, and efforts should be made to continue developing and evaluating countermeasures targeting the issue.