It would probably be easier for researchers to change tracks and start telling us what doesn't cause cancer or obesity or car accidents. Latest on the list of automotive smash-up causes, according to a study by UK insurer Swiftcover, are drivers leaving their fog lights on in good visibility. The numbers are brazen, with Swiftcover attributing "as many as 300,000" accidents and two million near misses in the last 12 months "caused by drivers leaving fog lights on in the same period."

The UK highway code prohibits driving with one's fog lights on in conditions with visibility greater than 100 meters. Swiftcover's study says the lights dazzle other drivers, especially in London where 50 percent of incidents were registered, and that this applies to both front and rear fog lights.

Follow the jump for a press release on the study and a link to the Highway Code if you need a refresher.
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Reckless fog light drivers caused 300,000 accidents in 2011

- Two million near-misses caused by drivers leaving fog lights on in the same period

- Three million drivers admit to leaving fog lights on despite driving in good visibility, despite it being an official driving offence .

- One in five young drivers who had left fog lights on did so "because it looks good"

(Friday, 27 January 2012) -- Motorists who use their front and rear fog lights indiscriminately when visibility is not impaired have caused as many as 300,000 accidents in the last 12 months, with young drivers leaving fog lights on "because it looks good", research by car insurance provider swiftcover.com has found.

The research went on to find that one in five drivers (21 per cent) who had left their fog lights on did so because their standard lights were not bright enough, but other excuses included improving visibility on poorly-lit lanes and deterring other motorists from driving too close.

Furthermore, 14 per cent claimed to turn their fog lights on simply "because it looks good". Younger drivers aged under 34 were particularly likely to have deliberately misused fog lights for this reason – 22 per cent of 18-34 year olds who had left their fog lights on cited this reason, compared to just 3 per cent of those aged 35-54.

It is an offence to use fog lights unless visibility is reduced to 100m or less, and doing so can attract a £30 fixed penalty notice because of the danger it poses to other drivers who may be dazzled or distracted. However, with front fog lights now commonplace on UK roads due to manufacturers incorporating them on an increasing number of vehicles as standard, nearly one in ten motorists (8 per cent) admitted to using high intensity fog lights outside of these circumstances.

"Young drivers trying to look 'cool' by using their fog lights at all times are recklessly and thoughtlessly endangering other motorists", commented Robin Reames, chief claims officer at swiftcover.com. "Fog lights are designed for a very specific purpose – helping drivers to see and be seen when visibility is severely reduced. Misusing these lights has the effect of dazzling and distracting other motorists and causes a staggering number of crashes, as evidenced by our research. If you can see further than 100m (roughly the length of a football pitch) then your fog lights should remain off, and if they are not then you are breaking the law and could face a £30 fixed penalty notice."

London drivers were the most likely to use their fog lights during normal visibility: swiftcover.com recorded more crashes due to fog lights in London than in any other region, with half (50 per cent) reporting having been dazzled by other motorists using these lights outside of fog.
Reames continued: "It's about common sense and courtesy – you wouldn't want to be dazzled by other drivers' lights, so be responsible and turn yours off when they're not necessary."

The Highway Code states that drivers must not:

Use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders

Use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced. You must switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other road users

A full copy of the Highway Code is available at: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070302