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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.