For fog’s sake – switch them off

FOG.

It’s such a simple three letter word and yet, for so many drivers, it seems so difficult to understand. As sure as night follows day, you can be certain that as winter rolls around again, countless drivers up and down the country will fail to deal with the simple act of driving in the fog.

The rules are quite simple. Section 226 of the Highway Code states that “You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves”.

Fog lights are on
Your fog lights are on, OK?

Invariably, drivers will be greeted with two buttons. One for the front fogs and one for the back. What’s more, the car manufacturers will have helpfully added a little light to the dashboard that tells the driver that their fogs lights are on. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it largely depends on the driver in question. There’s also a definite split between the front and rear lights, although common sense goes completely out of the window, regardless of the light in question.

Take front fogs for example. We all know that for a small proportion of the population, front fog lights have the ability to turn a rather humdrum motor car in a world rally championship winning weapon. It’s like the two small lights on the front of the car can magically transform the driver into Kris Meeke. With the front fogs blazing, the car gains a few extra horsepower and the overall effect is that your image is greatly enhanced.

Now I’m not a leading authority on design or engineering, but the last time I checked, turning the lights on doesn’t improve a car’s performance. And seriously, turning your fogs on doesn’t turn the ladies on. I put it to you. Do the security lights above your garage magically transform your house into an Italianate villa? No. Would adding a light to the top of your Beko fridge turn it into a much more desirable SMEG? No. It doesn’t work on white goods and buildings and it doesn’t work on your car.

And don’t think that a bit of light morning mist is a good enough excuse to turn on the lights. They’re FOG lights, not MORNING MIST lights. And that man smoking a cigarette across the street? Sorry, that’s not an excuse either. A bit of light drizzle? Nope, it still isn’t fog, is it?

Fog
This is fog

Fog. Remember that word. F.O.G. Fog.

People don’t seem to fare better when it comes to the rear lights either. Some drivers suffer the same affliction that affects the front lights – turning them on when the conditions don’t dictate their use. But worse is the people who fail to turn them off when the fog has cleared. Can they not see the big orange glow on the dashboard. It means your rear fog light is on. So turn it off immediately.

As you sit patiently behind, you can almost feel your retinas burning. It’s like a ray gun being pointed directly into your eyes. You try and keep a safe distance behind, but you soon realise you’re slipping into a coma. So you look for a chance to overtake and once you’re past, you helpfully flash your own rear fogs to let the driver know they’re acting a bit dim. You’re then greeted with one of two responses. They either sit there, vacantly looking into the middle distance. Or, misguidedly thinking you’re one of their chums, start to wave frantically. What’s the point, you think, and head off in search of the next Honda Jazz or Nissan Note.

This is not fog
This is not fog

For fog’s sake – is it too much to ask? Can we have some fogging common sense on the roads?

The advice is simple – if it’s foggy, use your fog lights. If it’s not, switch them off. You know it makes sense.

Road images courtesy of FreeFoto.com.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

36 comments

  1. November 24, 2011
    Simon Hingston

    I have a (very) limited sympathy for this driving an old Forester.

    Being a Japanese car of a certain age it wasn’t blessed by the ergonomics fairy. The rear fog switch (could be the front, I use them that frequently I can’t remember and the requisite weather I find helps one notice they are still on) is to the right of the column at knee level and hidden from view by the wheel and your arm. And the warning light is built into the switch and it doesn’t self cancel, genius!

    Obviously being a Subaru the front fogs do increase the performance by a factor of several.

    Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      MajorGav

      I’m trying to remember our old Forester and yes, I can see what you mean. I think it’s the same with many Japanese cars of that vintage. Even my old Box of Frogs…

      Reply
  2. November 24, 2011
    Jon Bradbury

    I’ve got less issue with the front fogs, don’t cause any issues in your rear view, purpose is surely so oncoming traffic can see you, the only annoyance is that they shouldn’t be on. Oft finding ultra bright high DRLs more of an issue in the rear view, and it seems the second favourite place to locate DRLs is roughly where a fog light is, so one way or another the battles lost anyway.

    Rear fogs though, I agree, they just burn your retinas as you follow, particularly in rain. I use my rears very little, but once anyone is in visible range I turn them off so as not to dazzle.

    Reply
  3. November 24, 2011
    Richard B

    I’d like to pile into the scrum (on your side) here and say a word on behalf of motorcyclists. Please, please, please make sure your headlights are adjusted properly and don’t use fog lights unless absolutely necessary. Front or rear. I know that some of you have them angled forward and call them ‘driving lights’ (what else would they be? Knitting lights?) but the result is the same.

    We don’t have windscreen wipers, and what for you is a hard glass windscreen is, for us, a bit of soft plastic that scratches almost without touching – and costs 30 or 40 quid a pop to replace. Proper rain, paradoxically, is OK, as the water beads up and is blown off as long as you keep up a decent speed. But light rain or, worse, mist leaves a coating of cloudy droplets on your visor and cuts both penetration and contrast. Double that, treble that, if you have followed a lorry or bus which is sucking up a mist of road muck in its wake. Bad enough when wet, but then it dries opaque.

    Add an unlit road, and an approaching car with main beams on (or squinty dippoed beams, or macho ‘fog’ lights) and you are literally riding into a black hole. You can see nothing, not the edge of the road, nor the surface, nor if there are any pedestrians tucked away in the shadows. The only answer is to pile on the brakes, slow down to a crawl and hope for the best.

    The blazing rear fog light has the same effect (although the red is easier to deal with, and it’s 21W x 2 rather than 60W x 4). In proper fog, a life-saver; in light rain or clear conditions a painful and annoying added hazard. But they are ‘safety features’, so it’s OK to leave them on, right?

    One thing about rear foglights that you didn’t mention is the brake reflex on busy roads and motorways. You get attuned to the level of everyone’s rear lights, and when you see a brighter one you assume someone up ahead is braking. You react, and are ready to brake. When some muppet with a fog light on is up ahead, you keep seeing this between the other cars and twitching the brake reflex. That’s annoying enough (my blood pressure is high enough as it is) but it’s also dangerous – after a while you become acclimatised, and then when somebody does panic-brake in an emergency, you just think “oh, it’s that twat with the fog light again” and fail to react. Cue monster pile-up when nobody brakes in time.

    Anyway, I am outstaying my welcome. Thank you for listening 🙂

    Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      MajorGav

      Seriously, thanks for adding this. Makes my rant seem rather insignificant in comparison to what you’ve outlined above.

      Reply
      • November 24, 2011
        Richard B

        Not at all – you make good points and make them well. And +1 for making me laugh.

        Reply
        • November 24, 2011
          MajorGav

          Cheers, Richard. Never a good idea to take things too seriously on PetrolBlog! 😉

          Reply
  4. November 24, 2011
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    While we’re at it, can we get people to use their fogging handbrake in traffic instead of sitting with their foot on the brake, dazzling the cars behind? Equally as annoying as fog lights and far more prevalent.

    Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      MajorGav

      Agreed, Antony. Thanks for adding!

      Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      Richard B

      Agree totally. I once sat behind a car (think it was a Saab 900) at some lights in the city. I seem to remember doing the maths and finding several hundred watts blazing away in my eyes. Multiple tail lights, multiple brake lights, high-level brake lights, plus of course the 21W indicators and repeaters. Like sitting in a frickin’ fairground.

      Reply
  5. November 24, 2011
    Simon Manley (@Carsini)

    Oh yes the dreaded fog lights, how do so many get it wrong. And as for the brake lights, glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

    Reply
  6. November 24, 2011
    #Project924

    Was thinking that same on the way home – some idiot, not only did he have his fog lights on (hello ladies!), but also, only one was working (so long ladies). Prize tool. I felt like running him off the road.

    Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      MajorGav

      A single front fog light? That really isn’t the way to impress the laydeez! 😉

      Reply
  7. November 24, 2011
    Joseph

    Yes, a pet hate of mine is those who drive with foglights on unneccessarily. Also, equally as irritating is drivers who leave their main beam lights on. Scotland is blessed with many unlit country roads, of which I am forced to drive on many occasions, mostly at night. When you approach a car with headlights ablaze (and usually fog lights ablaze, too!) it can be dangerous. Why do some motorists use their fog lights liberally, yet never seem to touch their indicators?

    Reply
    • November 24, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ah yes, good point. The overuse of fog lights mixed with the underuse of indicators. Hmmm…

      Reply
  8. November 24, 2011
    Diarmuid Fahy

    Thanks for raising this, Gav – can I add my bit?

    If it’s dark enough to warrant foglights, it’s dark enough for headlights. Few things bug me as much as the sidelight & foglight mob. I’ve also noticed that it’s not just the go-faster stripe boys either. Some of our more…mature…drivers need to own up too!

    Reply
    • November 25, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ah yes, the old side light and fog light combo. Room 101 for them boys! 😉

      Reply
  9. November 25, 2011
    Darren Leslie

    I’m going to admit that I’ve used fog lights (front) in the past when the conditions don’t require there use. My defense? 1980’s Audi headlights. These are notoriously crap, so bad in fact, that when on the motorway, you can just see a faint glow from the front of the car, where everyone else has a nice bright patch in front of them. I don’t however, use them like this anyone. Sorry for any inconvienience I may of caused.

    Also, wouldn’t the majourity of cars have the rear fogs linked to the fronts? So when you turn the rears on, the front comes on automatically.

    Reply
    • November 25, 2011
      MajorGav

      We were having a conversation about this on twitter last night. I had a similar issue with the Corrado. The headlights were just one step up from candles, so the front fogs were a definite temptation…

      Reply
  10. November 25, 2011
    Simon Hingston

    Isn’t it bizarre which subjects elicit the most comment 🙂

    Reply
    • November 25, 2011
      MajorGav

      I was thinking the same thing. I slave away over a 2,000 word new car review and am greeted with tumbleweed and silence. But a quick ten minute rant generates 20 comments and a twitter frenzy! 😉

      Reply
      • November 25, 2011
        Richard B

        That’s because a car review is your own experience, but an article like this taps into shared experience. On my own blog, I find it’s often the most unlikely posts (six lines, two minutes to write) that generate the most comments. The lengthy, worthy stuff is tumbleweed territory.

        Reply
        • November 25, 2011
          MajorGav

          There’s a lesson in here. I’ll cut down on the waffle for 2012! 😉

          Reply
      • November 25, 2011
        Jon Bradbury

        I have the same issue with photographs, spend weeks coming up with a home shot, or planned walk with a sunrise for some cracking shots, tumbleweed. Point your camera randomly at a cow n grab a lucky shot, comments go wild.

        Reply
        • November 25, 2011
          MajorGav

          I can see a trend emerging here. Instantaneous content that’s free of waffle. It’s the future!

          Reply
  11. November 25, 2011
    Simon Hingston

    Please don’t cut down on the waffle, it’s where the craft lies! And Jon kittens are the future 😉

    Reply
    • November 25, 2011
      MajorGav

      More waffle, less waffle? I’m not sure if I’m coming or going today!;)

      Reply
      • November 25, 2011
        Darren Leslie

        Hhmmm, waffles…..

        A combination of well constructed prose and off the cuff rants is where you need to be. So far, so good.

        Reply
        • November 25, 2011
          MajorGav

          Question is, savoury or sweet waffles?

          Surely it’s got to be sweet, with some golden syrup thrown in?

          Reply
  12. November 26, 2011
    Chris HOOPER

    Just to chuck a spanner in the works I have a new Skoda Fabia (greenline 2). It has fixed always on DRLs mounted in the same cluster as the fog lights below the main cluster.It concerns me people think I am a spanner even though I cant turn them off.I would not mind if they were funky Audi style LEDs but they are just standard slightly yellow bulbs.

    Reply
    • November 27, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ah yes, the VAG DRLs. Had a few Skodas with them fitted on test. I received a number of flashes from oncoming drivers.

      Certainly chucks a spanner in the works! 😉

      Reply
      • November 27, 2011
        Jon Bradbury

        Try hidden in the menu system, at least there was an option to turn them off in the mk6 Golf I drove earlier this year which used the same style as the skoda.

        Reply
  13. November 27, 2011
    Chris HOOPER

    There is an option in the VAGcom software the dealer can access but not in the car.
    The old model had a switch but thats now a blank on the fuse panel.
    The dealer says they don’t do it as its the law or will be soon I have got used to it now and it means I don’t have to put the lights on driving into the garage !!!!

    Reply
  14. December 9, 2011
    David Milloy

    Inappropriate use of fog lights is bad, but a more common (and more serious) fault is failure to use headlights (dip or dim dip – we’ll ignore DRLs here) when the conditions require. The purpose of using lights is two-fold – to improve your own vision and to enhance your visibility to others. Sadly, some people – those that sit on what passes for their brains – seem not to understand that the latter purpose is at least as significant as the former – clearly, they’ve either not read para 115 of the Highway Code or they’ve chosen to ignore it. It makes sense, in a skewed sort of way, that the worst culprits drive dark hued cars, thereby being all the harder to see in low-light conditions. As for indicator usage (or lack thereof), don’t get me started on that one……………………………….

    Reply
    • December 9, 2011
      Richard B

      Although dark cars show up quite well in fog and mist. It’s the silver and grey ones that disappear in those conditions.

      Perhaps we should all drive around in dayglo yellow cars? After all, if the EU want to mandate it for motorcyclists, why not cars too?

      Reply
      • December 9, 2011
        David Milloy

        My point was about low-light conditions rather than fog or mist. And, no, we shouldn’t have to take to the road in dayglo vehicles, but we do need to use some common sense when driving or riding and have consideration for other road others, or are such things outmoded?

        Reply

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