I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area where fog lights are almost never needed. Previously, I’ve lived where snow, heavy rain, and fog were fairly frequent, making fog lights a very nice feature to have on a vehicle. But I’ve noticed here and in many other places there are a lot of drivers who just leave their fog lights on constantly like they’re in some hardcore rally race.
Some areas have pretty strict laws about fog light use which police enforce aggressively, but that isn’t the case here. As a result, if you’re driving on an incline the cars coming the opposite direction shine four beams of blinding light through your windshield instead of just two. It’s quite thrilling.
Even better are the lifted pickup truck drivers who insist on keeping their fog lights switched on constantly. While their headlights shine right into the back window of most cars, the fog lights are perfectly positioned to weaponize your side mirrors against your vision. This is of course not dangerous to the guy in the truck, which is all that matters to them.
Not as frequently I’ll notice some European cars have their rear fog light(s) illuminated in clear conditions. The only vehicles I’ve owned with such a thing were European in origin and so I think most people in North America aren’t as aware of them. They’re always red, like a taillight, only brighter and serve to help other drivers see your vehicle in extremely low visibility situations so they don’t run into you.
But in good weather, a rear fog light is pretty blinding to other drivers, although they’re nowhere nearly as bad as front fog lights. Not many people leave them on constantly, so it’s not as much of a problem.
In inclement weather conditions fog lights are truly great. If you’re driving in a snowstorm, heavy rain, or fog they do an excellent job of illuminating the road in front of you. Some rather inexperienced drivers think switching on the brights is a better way of seeing where they’re going, but the moisture in the air acts as a mirror, reflecting that light back and actually making it harder for drivers to see.
I will say that guides which counsel you to use fog lights in dust storms are only partly right. Here in Phoenix we get legendary dust storms called haboobs. They can bring visibility down to almost nothing rapidly. Authorities here counsel drivers to pull all the way off the road when a dust storm hits and shut off all their lights, including keeping their foot off the brakes so other drivers don’t steer towards them, thinking they’re following traffic ahead. But in areas where dust storms are less severe, fog lights would come in handy.
So it’s really simple: when visibility is low and you’re concerned about seeing or being seen, flip on your fog lights. But when conditions are clear, shut them off. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand this simple guideline.
Images via Subaru, Eliel Frances Etruiste, Stellantis
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