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Foggy Illusions & Rowdy Rain: Safety Tips

With rain in the forecast for the next few days, here are some tips for staying safe on local roads.

There's something about Southern Californians and rain that don't mix. Whenever rainy days come, there tend to be more crashes on area roads. Foggy mornings and nights seem to throw drivers off, too, creating "an illusion of slower motion when drivers may be speeding in reduced visibility conditions," said Anita Lorz Villagrana, manager of AAA's Community Programs and Traffic Safety, in a news release.

So what can you do to stay safe when it's foggy or while out and about with rain in the forecast for the next few days?

AAA offers the following tips:

  • Keep your distance/Avoid skids. A car needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet pavement, so allow extra following distance between cars. Sudden braking often leads to skids. Extra distance provides a buffer zone in case of skids. If the car skids and control is lost, do not slam on the brakes. Instead apply the brakes with a steady, light but firm pressure. Remember to steer in the direction the car is sliding. When traction is regained, steering control will return. For cars equipped with anti-lock brakes, drivers should apply heavy steady pressure, but not pump the brakes.
  • Park in a closed garage. This reduces condensation and moisture on vehicle windows, when you start out for your trip.  
  • Defrost first. Before turning on the defroster, allow the engine to warm up. Turn the heat control on and if the vehicle’s windshield begins to get cloudy, open the side window slightly and turn the defroster to a higher speed. If you have an air conditioner, use it briefly to help clear the windows. 
  • Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will reflect off the fog, creating a “white wall” effect. If your car has fog lights, now is the time to use them. 
  • Reduce speed. Fog creates visual conditions that fool the driver into driving faster or slower, so slow down to a reasonable and legal speed and use your speedometer to gauge it. Multi-vehicle collisions occur because drivers are going too fast. 
  • Partially open the driver’s side window. Listen for traffic you can’t see and anticipate problems.
  • Keep a safe distance. In foggy weather, increase the braking distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. 
  • Drive cautiously. Avoid passing other vehicles and changing lanes, if possible. 
  • Stay informed. Tune into radio weather reports to know where traffic congestion or crashes might be located. If possible, avoid these areas. 
  • If stalled or a crash occurs: Attempt to exit the freeway or pull well onto the shoulder and turn off lights so another motorist doesn’t mistakenly drive into you.
  • Make sure windshield wiper blades are in good condition. Streaks or skipping on the vehicle's windshield are signs of worn wiper blades. Many crashes occur because motorists couldn’t see out of smeared windshields. 
  • Keep headlights and taillights working and lenses clean. This vehicle equipment is critical to help you see and be seen by other drivers in foggy and also normal driving conditions. 
  • Check tires. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at recommended inflation. Driving with bald tires on a slippery surface is a major factor in skidding. Tires should have at least 1/32nd of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on tires that are over inflated or under inflated is also extremely dangerous on wet pavement.

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