When Is The Right Time To Use Your Fog Lights?

By Vehicle Contracts06-11-2023
Driving in foggy conditions can be a nerve-wracking experience, even for the most seasoned drivers. Visibility can be severely compromised, often reducing your line of sight to just a few metres. In such situations, fog lights can be your saving grace.

This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the subject of fog lights, offering you a detailed understanding of their functionality, legal implications, and best practices for usage.

When is it Foggy in the UK?

Understanding the typical foggy seasons in the United Kingdom can help you prepare better for your journeys. Fog is more common during the autumn and winter months, particularly from October to February. During these seasons, the nights are longer, and the air is colder, creating ideal conditions for fog to form. Coastal areas and regions near rivers are especially prone to fog due to the higher moisture levels.

Morning and Evening Fog

Fog is often more prevalent in the early morning and late evening. These are times when the temperature differences between the ground and the air can lead to condensation that forms fog. If you're an early morning commuter or frequently drive during the evening, it's advisable to be extra cautious and prepared for foggy conditions.

Checking the Weather Forecast

Before setting out, especially during the fog-prone seasons, it's a good idea to check the weather forecast. Many weather apps and websites provide detailed information, including fog predictions, which can help you plan your journey better.

By being aware of when and where fog is most likely to occur, you can take the necessary precautions, such as ensuring your fog lights are in working order and adjusting your driving style to suit the conditions.

What Are Fog Lights?

Fog lights are specialised lights fitted to some vehicles, specifically designed to improve visibility in foggy or misty conditions. Unlike standard headlights, fog lights are engineered to minimise glare and light scatter, making it easier for you to see and be seen.

Front Fog Lights

Front fog lights are usually white or yellow and are strategically positioned below the headlights. Their primary function is to cut through the fog and illuminate the road without causing glare.

Rear Fog Lights

The rear fog light is a red light situated at the back of your vehicle. It serves the purpose of making your car visible to drivers behind you, thereby reducing the risk of rear-end collisions.

Fog Lights vs Headlights: The Technical Differences

Standard headlights can exacerbate glare in foggy conditions due to the moisture particles in the air reflecting the light back towards you. Fog lights, on the other hand, are designed to shine downwards, thereby illuminating the road beneath the fog layer. They are mounted lower on the vehicle to ensure that their beams shine underneath the fog, rather than into it.

Does Your Car Have Fog Lights?

In the United Kingdom, it's a legal requirement for all cars to be equipped with a rear fog light. Front fog lights, although common, are not mandatory. To ascertain whether your car has front fog lights, you can consult your dashboard, steering wheel stalk, or vehicle handbook. Some modern vehicles use daytime running lights as a substitute for front fog lights.

When and How to Use Fog Lights

The Highway Code stipulates that fog lights should be used when visibility is severely reduced, typically to less than 100 metres. While the use of fog lights is optional, failing to utilise them in poor visibility conditions could have implications for your insurance coverage. It's crucial to remember to deactivate your fog lights once visibility improves, to prevent dazzling other road users.

Automatic Lights: A Word of Caution

Many modern cars come equipped with automatic lights that rely on light-level sensors to activate. However, these sensors may not always detect foggy conditions, especially if it's still bright outside. Therefore, it's advisable to manually check and switch on your fog lights if needed.

Activating Your Fog Lights

Turning on fog lights is generally straightforward. Most cars have a dedicated button or switch on the dashboard, often marked with the fog light symbol. Alternatively, some vehicles control fog lights through the steering wheel stick. Simply look for the fog light symbols and twist the stick to the appropriate position to activate them.

Understanding Fog Light Symbols

The front fog light symbol typically depicts a lamp emitting slanting lines, intersected by a wavy line representing fog. The rear fog light symbol is similar but in reverse, with the lines of light appearing after the bulb.

Best Practices for Driving in Fog

Driving in fog requires heightened awareness and caution. Here are some tips to help you navigate safely:

  • Use dipped headlights: This helps you see and be seen without causing glare.
  • Activate wipers and demisters: These will keep your windscreen clear.
  • Be cautious of other drivers: Not everyone will have their lights on, so stay alert.
  • Adjust your speed: Only drive as fast as conditions allow.
  • Increase your stopping distance: In fog, it's advisable to maintain a three-second gap between you and the car in front.
  • Check your mirrors: Always do this before you slow down or stop.
  • Open your windows at junctions: If visibility is extremely poor, lower your windows to listen for oncoming traffic.

What Not to Do in Fog

  • Don't rely solely on automatic lights: They might not activate in foggy conditions.
  • Don't tailgate: Following another car too closely is dangerous and gives a false sense of security.
  • Don't speed up: If you feel a vehicle is too close behind you, resist the urge to speed up.

Legal Implications

The misuse of fog lights can result in legal penalties. According to the Highway Code, fog lights must only be used when visibility is seriously reduced and should be switched off when it improves. Failure to adhere to these guidelines could result in a Fixed Penalty Notice accompanied by a £50 fine.

In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of fog lights and how to use them effectively can significantly enhance your safety and that of other road users during foggy conditions. Regular vehicle maintenance checks, including the functionality of your fog lights, can help you avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure that you're not caught unprepared in challenging driving conditions.