We all know the signatures of an Arizona monsoon – intense dust storms and torrential rain – but how many of us truly know how to drive safely when Mother Nature unleashes her worst?
As part of Monsoon Awareness Week (June 13-19), the Arizona Department of Transportation is asking drivers to be prepared to “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” when blowing dust is on the move. At the same time, ADOT is reminding drivers about its dust detection and warning system on Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak as the system enters its second season of helping motorists travel more safely between Phoenix and Tucson.
The simplest monsoon safety reminder: Never drive into a dust storm. But because dust storms move so quickly – and can occur anywhere in Arizona – motorists need to know how to act quickly and safely if they find themselves in extreme conditions.
When drivers find themselves in blowing dust, ADOT’s message is “Pull Aside, Stay Alive.” The long-running public safety campaign urges drivers to leave the road if possible, with these safety tips in mind:
- When you come across a dust storm, immediately check for traffic around your vehicle and begin slowing down.
- Pull off the roadway as soon as possible, before waiting for visibility to become poor. Exit the highway completely if possible.
- Do not stop in travel lanes or the emergency lane. Pull off the pavement completely if it’s safe to do so.
- Turn off all vehicle lights. Vehicles approaching from behind could use your lights as a guide and possibly crash into your parked vehicle.
- Take your foot off the brake and set your emergency brake.
- Stay in your vehicle with your safety belt buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
For drivers traveling I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, ADOT offers additional monsoon travel tips about the 10-mile long dust detection and warning zone. The system became operational in this area that’s prone to blowing dust just in time for the 2020 monsoon, providing automated warnings when dust reduces visibility.
This zone is clearly marked with signs informing drivers they’re entering a variable speed limit corridor. When the system detects reduced visibility, electronic speed limit signs will automatically reduce the enforceable speed limit from 75 mph to as low as 35 mph. The system also activates overhead message boards with a warning for drivers to slow down because of blowing dust.
ADOT reminds drivers this first-of-its-kind system is only at this location, and that it’s not a replacement for common sense. As in any other part of Arizona, drivers should be ready to pull over during dust storms even with the additional safety and warning features in this area.
Maintenance of more than 55 pump stations along a number of Phoenix-area freeways is a year round job. Many pump stations have either three or four pumps, driven by powerful engines. Most pumps can lift more than 12,000 gallons of stormwater per minute.
Localized storms that drop more than 2 inches of rain in an hour can tax any drainage system. ADOT focuses on having technicians ready to respond if any issues with an individual pump station occur.
If freeway flooding does occur in a low-lying area, motorists should avoid driving into standing water and wait for emergency responders, including Department of Public Safety troopers, to arrive and provide assistance.
Drivers also should be prepared to slow down on wet freeways and local streets. Allow extra room behind any vehicles ahead, to provide safe and necessary stopping distance.