good motorinG
Drive on low beam in fog
H. Kishie Singh

For fog lights to function properly, the lens has to be yellow
For fog lights to function properly, the lens has to be yellow

January has been one of the coldest months with fog and rain thrown in to make driving a really hazardous experience. Fog and rain reduce visibility, sometimes to 20 metres, which means that you cannot see more than two car lengths ahead of you.

Cold temperatures will fog up the windscreen and the glass area of the car on the inside, further reducing visibility in all directions. A dangerous situation for the drivers and passengers and any other road user.

The other day while driving to Delhi the wipers were on for almost most of the drive. There were Mercedes, Audis and other expensive cars on the road, which were completely misted up on the inside. They made a very sad statement. People owning these expensive and exclusive cars have not read the owner’s manual.

They have luxury cars but do not travel in luxury. They were also travelling in unsafe cars. Poor visibility due to fog plus misted up windows mean swimming underwater with eyes closed. Keeping the glass area clear is simple. Press the right buttons, twiddle a few knobs and hey presto. The cabin is warm and comfortable and the glass area clear.

None of the cars had their headlights on. An important factor while driving in poor visibility is to see, which means a clear windscreen and be seen. This will happen only if you keep your headlights on. Headlights must, repeat must, be on low beam. High beam is detrimental. It hits the cloud of fog, which consists of very fine particles of water suspended in air. The high beam light hits this fog and bounces right back, blinding the driver. It also is a bother to the approaching car, reducing the visibility of the other driver.

No one on the road that day had reduced their speed. Visibility is reduced, wet roads increase braking distance, collisions are imminent. There was a pile-up of 17 cars on the Noida flyover that day. The reasons are obvious. Poor visibility and high speeds.

Most manufacturers these days have a set of lights on the bumper. They refer to them as fog lights. They are not fog lights. For fog lights to function properly — to increase visibility in foggy conditions — the lens has to be yellow. The wavelength of yellow allows it to cut through the fog and travel a long distance. The colour red has the longest wavelength. This is the reason all important and urgent messaging lights are red.

Brake lights, red lights at traffic crossings or blinking red lights — all signal danger, and caution must be observed. Since red can be seen from a distance, the driver gets the longest possible reaction time to take appropriate action. Yellow or amber comes a close second, which is why at traffic junctions, blinking lights at crossings and indicators on cars, yellow is the choice of colour, signalling caution. Green follows with the third wavelength and signals go.

It is a simple matter to give yourself a set of fog lights. The orange wrapping paper used by halwais, if put across your lights, will convert your driving lights into fog lights. Remove them in the spring.

Over the years, psychologically we have come to associate red with danger, yellow or amber with caution and green as a "proceed" colour.

There seems to be some confusion in the minds of Indian drivers. A number of drivers and riders today go zooming through red lights. Red means stop. One of the most dangerous and foolhardy moves for a driver or mobike rider is to drive through a red light. The right of way is for the other road user, and a bus or truck may be coming against you. In a car in case of an accident, you will get serious injuries. A biker does not stand a chance if hit by a bus or truck, or even a speeding car.

As a western observer commented: " An Indian has a maddening habit of always choosing the course of action which will do the maximum damage to his own interests. He will cut off his nose to spite his face and regard such an operation as a triumph of cosmetic surgery."

He could be describing one of you.

Happy motoring.