What to Do if You Drive into a Dust Storm

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monsoon storm lightning
Rain and lightning seen from Anthem during a monsoon storm in 2016. Photo: Marius Britt

Editor’s Note: With the monsoon officially starting June 15, you’ll hear lots of advice this week about how to stay safe. Here’s what the Arizona Department of Transportation advises if you’re on the road when a dust storm strikes. Note: The word “monsoon” is from the Arabic mausim, which means season. Monsoon is not a storm. Rather, it is a large-scale seasonal shift in wind. See: All About the Monsoon.

ADOT — You know not to drive into the towering wall of dust. And if a dust channel whips across a highway and engulfs your vehicle, the mantra “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” can lead you to safety.

But even after you’ve pulled aside, one of the most important actions must still be taken – turn off your lights!

Turn off headlights, emergency flashers, dome lights and take your foot off the brake. Stay buckled up, set the parking brake, go dark and wait for the dust storm to pass.

Here’s why: If you become caught in a dust storm and have pulled off the highway, you’re in a dangerous spot – less dangerous than driving blind on the road, though – and want to hide. You can do that by turning off all vehicle lights. If you leave lights on, drivers behind you might believe you’ve found the way out and follow, crashing into your parked car because low-visibility affects depth perception.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has produced 30-second public service announcements – in English and Spanish – on this topic that will air statewide on television and radio throughout monsoon season as part of ADOT’s partnership with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. The PSAs can be viewed on ADOT’s YouTube channel.

As Monsoon Awareness Week begins and we near the official start of monsoon season, ADOT wants to remind drivers of the No. 1 dust-storm driving tip: Do not drive into a dust storm.

“Road trips are a great way to get out and experience all that Arizona has to offer,” Governor Doug Ducey said. “If there’s a dust storm in your path, it’s time to take a break from driving. Make the safe and smart decision to delay your travel plans and wait for the storm to pass.”

Towering, dense, blowing dust can drop visibility to zero. Just as dangerous are the small dust channels that whip across roadways in an instant, affording drivers little or no opportunity to avoid them. In such events, ADOT has developed the following “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” dust storm safety driving tips, which can help travelers survive a storm.

  • Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
  • If you encounter a dust storm, immediately check traffic around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway – do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can.
  • Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane. Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
  • Turn off all vehicle lights. You do not want other vehicles approaching from behind to use your lights as a guide, possibly crashing into your parked vehicle.
  • Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
  • Stay in the vehicle with your seat belt buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
  • Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.

More information on dust storm safety can be found at PullAsideStayAlive.org and safety tips for driving in rainstorms can be found at azdot.gov/monsoon.


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Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates • 602-242-4592
Anthem Senior Living • 602-909-9550
Appliance Pros • 502-501-5501
Business Network of Anthem • 623-455-9630
Carroll Law Firm • 623-551-9366
Century 21 Real Estate - Jeff Huff • 623-223-1221
Creative Home Enhancements • 623-551-5409
Daisy Dream Homes Real Estate • 623-879-3277
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Element Dental Centers • 623-551-5555
Hand & Stone Massage • 623-551-6602
Kendallwood Design • 602-252-3844
Kodiak Roofing • 602-501-7717
Luv My PC • 480-703-6609
Merrill Gardens • 623-201-4881
North Valley Water Solutions • 623-551-0515
Preferred Business of Anthem • 623-551-0523 
Prickett Realty • 623-551-8111
ProSkill Services • 623-551-7473
RE/MAX Professionals - Mike Higgins • 623-640-7502
Rise Above Remodeling • 623-551-2013
Soft Water Plus • 623-551-7383
SonoranScapes Landscaping • 602-842-9948
State Farm Insurance - Justin Simons • 623-551-3700
Storage at Anthem • 623-226-8634
Sunset Cabinets • 623-687-6579
Thompson & McGinnis Attorneys at Law • 602-952-2666
Titan Tree Care • 623-444-8448
Titan Pest Control • 623-879-8700
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical • 623-551-6688

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North Phoenix News posts selected press releases, unedited, when we think they’d be of broad interest to one or more communities in the region. The organization submitting the press release is responsible for its contents, and press releases are labeled to distinguish them from news and features we report and write. (See more press releases.)

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