It's been really foggy lately and many drivers are forgetting to turn on their headlights.
One recent Thursday night the fog was so bad in Stanislaus County that some people I know decided to stay at home rather than risk an accident in the thick tule fog.
Stanislaus County Public Information Officer David Jones sent us an email last week to let us know that StanEmergency on Twitter and Facebook has been seeing a lot of chatter regarding people not driving with their headlights on during the fog. On Thursday he messaged all media people that he "personally saw 15 people on my three-mile drive to work" driving without headlight in the fog.
So the folks at StanEmergency produced a graphic image with the headline "Start it up. Light ‘em up." It has the sub head "When you start your car, turn on your low beams. Daytime running lights aren't meant for fog."
Jones' email came the same week that five farmworkers were killed in a foggy crash on Highway 4 near Farmington in San Joaquin County.
Driving in Valley fog can result in some disastrous results. In 2002, a crash south of Fresno on a zero visibility morning sandwiched 81 cars and six tractor-trailer trucks in less than two minutes, killing two. After a 2007 morning pileup involving 108 cars and big rigs killed two, injured 100 more and closed the major north-south transportation artery for half of the day, Caltrans and the Highway Patrol began planning for a warning system.
Fog is actually condensed water droplets that form when cold air passes over warmer water or land, especially after the ground has been soaked by rain. Though it's been weeks since the area saw any significant rainfall, fog also is possible anywhere near water.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that fog causes 38,000 crashes, 600 deaths and 15,600 injuries each year.
Does the obvious need to be stated? Slow down, turn your headlights on low-beam (even during the day time), make sure your defroster is working and when you come to a rural intersection where cross traffic does not have to stop, roll down your windows and listen for any other approaching car sounds.
Be safe. Fog will be with us for a while.