This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 16 Nov 2014
Browse through the news headlines in Pakistan over the past few years during the winter months and not a week goes by without a report of a road accident that has claimed many lives. Read a little bit more and you’ll find that weather condition, in particular fog, was a major contributing factor. This past week in Khairpur, Sindh a head-on collision between a bus and trucks resulted in over 50 deaths. One news report suggested there was a slight fog at the time of the accident. Each year the Motorway in Punjab gets closed for several hours and sometimes even a few days because of Fog. A study by World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that road accidents are one of the leading cause of death among young people in Pakistan.
While the most obvious bit about driving is to ensure that you have a road-worthy vehicle and that you are physically fit, on long drives or even during difficult weather conditions this is paramount.
If you cannot postpone your travel to an hour or a day when there’s no fog then here are some of the things you need to keep in mind:
Winter brings fog, reducing visibility; take care to avoid any untoward situation
— Focus on the road ahead
— Slow your vehicle to a manageable speed (remember, if you need to apply brakes suddenly the higher the speed the longer it takes)
— Switch on the headlights but not high-beams (high-beams may reflect the moisture off the fog making it difficult to see)
— Switch on the fog lights if you have them (if you travel regularly on roads that experience fog, consider installing fog lights both at the front and rear)
— Check your rearview mirror if you cannot see the vehicle behind you because of the fog; switch on your rear fog lights
— Avoid using rear fog lights when in a moving queue with the car travelling behind just a few feet away
— Use wipers with a screen wash to enable greater visibility
— If you don’t have demisters then switch the AC on HOT and it will quickly clear up
— Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and don’t hang on to its tail lights. In case the front vehicle breaks suddenly, you may not have enough time to do likewise safely
— Drive slowly and keeping a watch out for parked or stranded vehicles.
— Watch out for pedest-rians and other obstacles that may be difficult to spot
— Drive patiently, do not overtake, pass or even change lanes unnecessarily
— If you feel someone is driving too close to you pull over when possible and allow them to move ahead. Do not speed up to move away.
— If you are stuck behind a slow moving vehicle don’t speed up to overtake. You can indicate your intention to move ahead but be cautious as sudden burst of the horn or flash of lights could confuse the driver
— Avoid sudden burst of speed even if the area in front of you may appear to have better visibility; you may find yourself caught in thick fog beyond it.
— The speed limits for the road must only be adhered to when you are certain the fog has lifted
— If the fog is too thick to continue, pull off completely from the road to a safe area; avoid staying close to the shoulder of the road and wait for the fog to lift to travel further. Switch on your Hazard Lights
— If for any reason your vehicle comes to stop, switch on the hazard lights and move away from the carriageway as soon as possible.
— Do not attempt to move a stalled vehicle from the carriage way by pushing it as you could be struck by cars come from behind.
— If your vehicle does breakdown and you have a hi-viz jacket available put it on before stepping out of the vehicle
— Driving during foggy conditions requires focus and that can be stressful and lead to eye strain. Take regular breaks on the trip and arrive at your destination safe
— Reduce distractions in your vehicle, such as use of cell phones or attempting to change the music. Have an occupant other than the driver answer the phone or change the music
— Always watch your speed; you may actually be going faster than you think.
— Do not reduce your speed drastically, slow down gradually so those behind you can react in a timely manner as well
— You may hear before you actually see the other vehicle or an obstacle (animals crossing). So you may want to roll down your windows and pay attention to sounds outside
Speed thrills but kills and in difficult weather conditions it’s an accident waiting to happen.
Drive safe this winter.