Rainy season is upon us, and for those who do most of their driving in the mountains, things can get pretty treacherous. In Baguio City where I am from, motorists are often advised to avoid taking Kennon Road during a heavy downpour because of the rock slides. But when navigating alternate routes like Marcos Highway or Naguilian Road, a difficult driving condition is hardly ever mentioned: fog.
Yes, driving through a thick fog can be extremely dangerous, too. And when in the middle of the super-thick, pea-soup-like fog on Marcos Highway, sometimes I wish I had taken my chances with the potential rock slides on Kennon Road instead.
Rain or shine, night or day, fog can descend upon you and blanket the road like the smoke effect of a late-'90s rave party. Here's what I do when that happens.
1) Slow down. Common sense, here. I've trained myself to always see as far forward as possible, and if vision is hampered, I match my speed accordingly. Keep traveling at your normal pace and it will be too late to react to the car ahead of you, the curves, and the approaching cars. Slow down so you have ample time to react. And if the fog gets thicker and thicker, match your speed accordingly. I still recommend that you keep moving. But if you think about stopping...
2) Determine if it is safe to come to a complete stop by the side of the road. Never stop while on the road! See, I don't recommend stopping unless you are sure that there is a place that is far enough from moving traffic. If there is no shoulder or place to pull aside, please keep going. If you come to a complete stop, you may still be rear-ended—even if your hazard lights are on. Make sure that there is a place far enough from the flow of cars before parking.
Oh, and about those hazard lights: Keep them off unless the car is stationary. Never use them while negotiating bad weather—thick fog included. I'm sure there will be violent reactions to this, but trust me, driving with hazard lights on just confuses other motorists who are sharing the road with you. Don't lose your ability to signal a lane change or any movement by activating your hazard lights. Now that you must keep moving...
3) Switch on your air-conditioner to the demister mode. This will ensure that your windshield is as clear as possible and without any condensation. Switch on the rear demister as well. If your car doesn't have an air-conditioner, open the windows and let the air in. In a humid tropical country like ours, as long as the cabin temperature is the same as the air temperature outside, condensation won't form on the inside or outside surface of the windshield. This is based on my own personal experience. For older cars, open the fresh-air vent and crank up the blower if condensation appears on the glass.
4) Ditch all distractions. Driving in fog requires 110% of your attention. You will be straining to see ahead and have to make sure you don't fall off the mountain. Your senses are needed for driving and driving only. Tell your passengers to shut up and stop worrying. They should only speak when warning you about something you might not have seen. Turn off the stereo. Don't touch your phone--although that's a given already.
5) You need every bit of input, so open the windows so that you can hear any oncoming vehicles. You will be able to smell exhaust, burnt brakes and clutches, too, indicating that there are cars close by. Again, you need to amplify all of your senses to help you know where other vehicles are in relation to you.
6) If the fog is super thick, find that tiny bit of the road that you can still see and follow. It might be the lane divider, or it might be the rightmost edge of the concrete. Don't lock onto it, though, because you still have to pay attention to what's ahead. And do not drift into the other lane!
7) Use your fog lights and low beams, but this really depends on the conditions. Sometimes the water particles in the fog can throw the light back at you, but sometimes it doesn't. This all depends on the kind of fog and if it is raining hard at the same time. In any case, experiment with what combination of lighting helps you the most.
Now that you know how tricky it is to drive in thick fog, just relax when you find yourself in it. It usually clears up eventually. Remember, safety should always come first. Use common sense and your best judgment.
Any more tips? Share them below.