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Provincial police launch awareness campaign about driving in fog

By Vicki Gough, Special to Postmedia Network

People are barely visible in this photograph taken at a massive pile-up during a foggy morning drive on Highway 401 in Essex County on Sept. 3, 1999. West Regjon OPP are asking drivers to be especially vigilant when faced with fog as they launch a Dense Fog Requires Bright Drivers campaign.

People are barely visible in this photograph taken at a massive pile-up during a foggy morning drive on Highway 401 in Essex County on Sept. 3, 1999. West Regjon OPP are asking drivers to be especially vigilant when faced with fog as they launch a Dense Fog Requires Bright Drivers campaign.

Sixteen years ago this week, eight people died and many others were injured in a horrific 87-vehicle pile-up on Highway 401 in Essex County.

The trigger was dense fog on Sept. 3, 1999.

Fast forward to Monday. Chances are if you had to drive somewhere in southwestern Ontario during the morning commute, you also found yourself travelling through fog.

The dense air forms when cold air hits the ground, which is heated by daytime temperatures.

Ground fog is encountered during late evening hours and early morning hours as it drifts off the fields and onto roadways.

The message from OPP to keep drivers safe is simple, OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor told The Chatham Daily News Monday.

"Drivers just need to slow down," Rektor said, adding, "The car has to be in good working order, good wipers, windshield fluid topped up, all lights on — front and rear — and leave extra distance between vehicles."

Rektor said if visibility is really bad, drivers should "pull well off the roadway safely and wait until the fog burns off."

If people hear school buses aren't running, the OPP hopes drivers will decide to be proactive, he said

"If it's foggy and there are school bus cancellations, that would be a good indicator it's probably too foggy to be on the road safely, so just wait it out."

Since the deadly crash of 1999, the Ministry of Transportation Ontario has added highway monitor signs to give drivers current messaging about roads conditions and safe driving tips.

Though many changes have come into effect, Rektor said the fact remains that many people have no idea how to drive in foggy conditions.

"It doesn't matter what legislation you have in place, if you don't have common sense it's not going to matter," Rektor said.

The OPP offer the following tips to make your drive safer should you find yourself navigating through fog:

• Check before you go and wait until fog clears or is reduced

• Buckle up;

• Radio off to hear other vehicles, horns, sirens

• Vehicle front and rear lights on

• Drive below posted speed limit;

• Allow extra distance between vehicles;

• Use four-way flashers if travelling below speed limit.

Rektor said if you decide to stop or are in a collision, you should proceed safely well off the roadway and stay inside your vehicle.

As quickly as fog appears, it can burn off, which is well worth the wait to avoid a white-knuckle drive — or worse, he added.

vicki.gough@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/DailyNewsVG