Ways of seeing while driving in the dense fog of Delhi
As the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts a week-long spell of dense fog in Delhi and its neighbouring satellite towns, the city’s traffic enforcement agencies are once again on alert mode.
Officials of the Delhi traffic police said collisions caused by low visibility have become a prime reason for road fatalities in the national capital and on highways around it.
Data from the ministry of road transport and highways shows that as many as 12,678 people lost their lives in fog-related road accidents in 2018. In 2016, as many as 9,317 people died in such accidents and the number increased to 11,090 in 2017. The ministry further said between 2014 and 2018, fatalities on roads due to fog-related crashes increased by almost 100%.
Since 2017, north Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have topped the list of states where road accidents spike during winters.
Delhi traffic police officials said the problem is more rampant on highways and expressways around the city, and accidents caused by low visibility increase by at least 8-10% in December and January— when the visibility in the region dips to almost zero. Apart from road accidents, the possibility of pile-ups—when multiple vehicles crash with each other—also increases also increases in the fog.
One such accident occurred on January 2018, when India’s powerlifting world champion Saksham Yadav was killed in a road accident on the Delhi-Panipat highway. The accident was primarily caused by dense fog, the police had said then.
“We have issued a detailed advisory for drivers to follow and this set of practices is being widely circulated on our social media accounts. We are also doing extensive awareness campaigns to educate people on how they should be more attentive while driving in fog,” Narendra Singh Bundela, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said.
The advisory issued by the traffic police has urged drivers to follow basic traffic rules such as lane-driving, using indicator while moving lanes, to avoid overtaking other vehicles and to drive at low speeds.
Traffic experts and senior traffic officials said following elementary practices can go a long way in saving drivers and others from fatal collisions. They added a year-round programme to inculcate good driving behaviour, where drivers are trained to follow rules is the need of the hour.
“Lane-driving and driving within the stipulated speed limits are the basic rules of driving that people need to follow throughout the year. A good driver will follow these steps, and an additional step would be to be more alert,” a senior traffic police official said.
Road safety experts also said learners’ licence test should also test driving in foggy conditions.
“The overall module for driving tests should be strengthened, but considering that we live in Delhi, which experiences intense winter months, drivers should also be trained properly to handle situations that are likely to arise during foggy rides. This cannot be achieved by an advisory, it needs more serious awareness,” Santosh Acharya, co-founder of Road Safety Charter, a Delhi-based non-profit group that works for creating awareness on traffic and road safety, said.
Use of fog lights can go a long way
Experts further stressed that in case of low visibility, use of fog lights can reduce the risk of accidents by more than 25%.
The International Road Federation (IRF) had written to the union ministry in 2018 to make the front and rear fog lights mandatory in all vehicles.
“The point is when you cannot see beyond a distance of over 100 metres, you will be able to spot a moving vehicle around you with the fog lights,” Acharya said.
Traffic officials said turning parking lights on in older models of vehicles that do not have without fog lights could also be helpful.
“During dense fog days, the visibility is at its lowest between 1am and 3am. We always advise drivers to avoid driving your vehicle during this time,” another senior traffic police official said. “But if you are caught in the middle of the road and have no other option but to drive, keep your speed below 40 kmph and rely on your hearing. Switch off the music in your car or turn down the volume and listen for the screeching of brakes or honking sounds to figure out the distance between your vehicle and the others.”
Traffic officials also advised if your vehicle breaks down in the wee hours of the night or early morning, then carrying reflective jackets and reflective lights could prove helpful. These could be placed around the vehicle, so that an approaching vehicle can be spotted from far off. This tip could also be helpful for cyclists and pedestrians during peak traffic hours.
“If you are wearing a reflective jacket, you are automatically visible from a distance. There have been accidents where speeding vehicles have hit people on the road because they could not see them till they came dangerously close. In winters, everything comes down to visibility so your focus should be to enhance the ability of being seen clearly,” a traffic police official said.
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