An effective method based on improved atmospheric scattering model is proposed in this paper to handle the problem of the vehicle license plate location and recognition in dense fog. Dense fog detection is performed firstly by the top-hat transformation and the vertical edge detection, and the moving vehicle image is separated from the traffic video image. After the vehicle image is decomposed into two layers: structure and texture layers, the glow layer is separated from the structure layer to get the background layer. Followed by performing the mean-pooling and the bicubic interpolation algorithm, the atmospheric light map of the background layer can be predicted, meanwhile the transmission of the background layer is estimated through the grayed glow layer, whose gray value is altered by linear mapping. Then, according to the improved atmospheric scattering model, the final restored image can be obtained by fusing the restored background layer and the optimized texture layer. License plate location is performed secondly by a series of morphological operations, connected domain analysis and various validations. Characters extraction is achieved according to the projection. Finally, an offline trained pattern classifier of hybrid discriminative restricted boltzmann machines (HDRBM) is applied to recognize the characters. Experimental results on thorough data sets are reported to demonstrate that the proposed method can achieve high recognition accuracy and works robustly in the dense fog traffic environment during 24h or one day.