Freezing fog warning: The four ways seriously cold weather could affect your driving

UK Weather: Met Office forecast freezing fog patches

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Foggy weather is not uncommon in the UK, especially during winter when plummeting temperatures brace the nation. Freezing fog is an extreme type of fog which can occur when the thermostat registers below zero. Sub-zero conditions are the main cause of this weather phenomenon, but how can this frozen mist affect your driving?

What is freezing fog?

Foggy weather on a cold winter morning is a direct result of cold land under clear skies.

Freezing fog forms in the same way as normal fog, said the Met Office.

It said: “If there are clear skies, the heat radiates back into space leading to cooling at the earth’s surface.

“This results in a reduction of the air’s ability to hold moisture which allows water vapour to condense into tiny water droplets eventually leading to the formation of fog.”

When fog forms in below-freezing conditions, these tiny water droplets in the air remain as liquids and become ‘supercooled’.

These ice-cold droplets need a surface to freeze upon – when these droplets fall onto a surface it forms a white blanket of feathery ice crystals.

Known as rime, this is the key characteristic of freezing fog which is renowned for its almost idyllic appearance.

Rime is most common on higher ground, though it can be seen more prominently on particularly cold mornings following a freezing night.

This feathery layer of ice is most visible on vertical surfaces like trees and lamp posts.

Why is freezing fog dangerous?

While freezing fog is not a frequent phenomenon in the UK, it is just as dangerous when it does arrive in short bursts.

It can cause obstructions in the road

The added weight of countless tiny ice crystals can cause power lines and tall trees to topple over.

When large structures looming over major roads become unstable, it can cause significant disruption to those travelling across the country.

From road traffic accidents to long queues of traffic jams, fallen objects obstructing the nation’s travel networks is bad news for commuters.

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Freezing fog can cause black ice

When temperatures fall well below zero and freezing fog occurs, there is a much higher risk of black ice covering the roads.

Black ice is difficult to see and very dangerous to drive on, so be extra cautious when driving in bursts of freezing fog.

Rule 228 of the Highway Code states: “In winter, check the local weather forecast for warnings of icy or snowy weather.
“Do not drive in these conditions unless your journey is essential.

“Take an emergency kit of de-icer and ice scraper, torch, warm clothing and boots, first aid kit, jump leads and a shovel, together with a warm drink and emergency food in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down.”

Freezing fog makes roads slippery

Gritting the roads to prepare for snowfall is one thing, but safeguarding roads and pathways against ice is even more difficult.

Slippery spots on roads, bridges and overpasses are a real concern for extreme weather during the winter – so take care when driving and only make essential journeys when dealing with adverse road conditions.

It reduces visibility

Fog lights should always be used when driving in foggy conditions to avoid collisions or dangerous driving.

Driving below the speed limit and keeping a safe distance between other vehicles is also recommended to allow space in case of an accident.

According to Rule 226 of the Highway Code: “You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet).
“You may also use front or rear fog lights but you must switch them off when visibility improves.”

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