Sidelights, or less, in the f-f-f-fog?!

Stuttering with impotent rage over the fecklessness of some country drivers yesterday morning on our way in to the ‘toon for a hospital appointment, as we peered through the near-impenetrable fog to make out, just, a grey vehicle in front of us driving blithely along with merely their dim, oh so dim, rear lights on, we did light up the air with a few choice Anglo-Saxon epithets.

Sure, you know the road, what difference does it make if nobody else can see you? Well, it might make quite a difference if a split-second is required for an emergency stop, and your vague but dim lights had been missed by the folks behind. Even worse, we met an oncoming car with just the one sidelight functioning, in heavy fog! What do you suppose fog-lights are for, anyway? The only thing for safe drivers to do is to be ultra-defensive, just to protect themselves and their passengers from the abject stupidity of ignorant drivers who apparently haven’t figured out the fog-light switch yet!

Here’s a friendly tip: the alternator in your car is well-equipped to deal with the load of a fog-light or four — it will cost you no more to drive safely, and visibly, through foggy, misty conditions, than if you skulk through the country lanes with just the sidelights. And this: sitting quietly in your parking place, take a moment to familiarise yourself with your vehicle’s lights. The fog-light switch can usually only be activated when the headlamps are on normal beam (not when just the sidelights are on!). Car manufacturers, I suppose, cannot imagine that drivers would proceed blithely through foggy conditions with just the smallest indication that they are present on the road. But we know that some drivers are just dumb, ignorant, and dangerous on the road to others. I’ve even come upon cars driving along with no lights on at all, in visibilities of no more than a few meters, and wondered, what on earth do these idiots think they’re doing? Do they imagine there are no other vehicles on the road? How do they suppose they are seen — do all the other drivers have super-human X-ray vision?

Obviously there are times when fog-lights are verboten: when road conditions are good, the glare can be distracting to other drivers. So the corollary to good driving practise, in intermittent foggy conditions, must be to be aware of the conditions, to engage or disengage the lights when visibility decreases or returns.

When we took possession of our ancient motorhome, one of the first things I did was to make sure the topmost running lights were functioning, increasing our night-time visibility to other drivers under any conditions. Then we had the non-functioning front fog-lamps replaced with a pair of London taxi lights, so that we could enhance our presence in foggy conditions. We hoped, if we had to travel through misty French byways, for example, as we have done, that we’d be clearly visible to everyone we encountered, front or back. The fog-lights go on when we want to be seen, not only when we want to see better ourselves! So why shouldn’t everyone be driving about in a fairly defensive manner? Too many accidents are caused by carelessness, by ignorance, by blithely unaware drivers for whom the “I didn’t even see you!” ripostes after the fact have come at great cost.

So . . . a plea to the other drivers on the road: please consider your own visibility, in all weather conditions, before you’re rear-ended by an innocent. Protect yourself at least, so that the defensive driver coming along carefully behind you has at least half a chance.


  1. I don’t know if it’s still the case but when I bought my current car nine years ago I had to pay extra to have front fog lights fitted. Motor manufacturers need to take their share of the blame.
    While we’re on the subject, the Highway Code states
    “236 You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
    Law RVLR regs 25 & 27”, so why do so many cars on the roads these days drive in perfectly clear conditions with their front fog lights switched on?

  2. Fair comments Sally — I might note that we were warned, as intrepid motorhome travellers, that the on-the-spot penalties for driving with fog lights on in Europe in conditions of good visibility can be very severe. I myself haven’t been bothered by drivers on our roads with the front fogs on, but am rather more bothered when I can’t see the car in front of me!

    I’ve wondered if that section of the Highway Code isn’t part of the reason for the reluctance of some drivers to turn their fog-lights on in deep fog conditions, but on the whole I’m persuaded that many drivers are merely selfish, thinking only of their own ability to see, rather than whether they themselves are visible. So that’s not defensive driving, but driving expecting every other road user to have to be even more aware of their vehicle than they are! We can all take a lesson in trying to experience the road as others see (or don’t see!) us.

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