This Is Why You Should Turn Your Darn Lights On When It’s Foggy
Fog isn't something exclusive to the Twin Ports area, but we see a lot of it thanks to Lake Superior's perpetually cold water mixing with warmer air. With that fog comes a series of driving hazards, some of which can be minimized if people would just turn their darn headlights on.
I've actually been with people who have said "it's daytime, I can see without my headlights", or "headlights don't help me see any better when it's foggy" as excuses not to turn their headlights on when fog is present. This is not only the wrong attitude to have, but it is also illegal in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The whole idea behind turning your headlights on when it is foggy isn't as much for you directly, as it is for everyone else on the road. When it is foggy (or we're seeing heavy rain or snow), it is especially difficult to see other vehicles, sometimes before it is too late to avoid them. The key thing is to use the low beams, and not the high beams. High beams when it is foggy or snowy, for example, will cause reduced visibility for the driver, which is obviously also dangerous. Low beams will make you visible without causing a lot of light to be cast back at you, the driver.
Yes, a decent share of late model vehicles have daytime running lamps, which is better than nothing at all, but having headlights and taillights on in conditions when visibility isn't ideal is the best way to make sure others can see you. Just today I had an incident leaving work where a guy (who was going way faster than he should have been anyway) was cruising by on the road, and I couldn't see him until he was nearly at the intersection at which I was sitting. I was contemplating turning out, and luckily I didn't as a split second later a big pickup truck flew by without its lights on, and I had no clue he was coming until he was right there.
What Minnesota & Wisconsin Laws Say
Beside being the right thing to do, turning your headlights on when visibility is diminished is legally mandated in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Minnesota Statute 169.48 states that lights should be displayed "at any time from sunset to sunrise; at any time when it is raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing; and at any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke, fog or other conditions or there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
500 feet. That's a considerable distance. If you can't see clearly for at least 500 feet, turn your darn lights on.
Wisconsin also has a law on the books that similarly states "No person shall may operate a motor vehicle on a highway during hours of darkness or during a period of limited visibility without lighted headlamps", with the term "limited visibility" defined as "any time that weather conditions limit visibility such that objects on a highway are not clearly discernible at 500 feet from the front of a vehicle". This includes smoke, fire, dust, rain, snow, etc.
In the end, just take the moment to flip your lights on when it is foggy. It's the law, and everyone will be safer for it. You should also adjust your speed for weather conditions, but that's a whole different story.