Dust Storm Driving: Safety Tips for Arizona Drivers

Dust storms are very common in Arizona and create hazardous conditions for drivers throughout the state. The most common time to experience a dust storm in Arizona is between the months of May and September. One particularly dangerous condition is called a haboob, which is an extreme dust storm that travels at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. The area that lies between Phoenix and Tucson is known for this type of weather phenomenon.

Although dust storms usually don’t last very long, they can be deadly. These blinding conditions often cause collisions that result in injury and vehicular damage. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, dust storms are most likely on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, Interstate 10 between Benson and the New Mexico State line, and on Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Yuma.

During a Dust Storm

Since dust storms can severely limit your visibility while driving, it’s important to safety get off the road when one hits the area you’re traveling in. Keep these tips in mind if you find yourself caught in a dust storm behind the wheel:

  • Reduce your speed (In Arizona, the speed limit is 75 mph on rural interstates and 65 on urban interstates)
  • Carefully exit the highway as soon as you notice a dust storm forming in the distance
  • Don’t drive in an emergency lane or on the shoulder
  • Once stopped, turn off your lights to discourage other drivers from read-ending your vehicle
  • Set the emergency brake
  • Take your foot off the brake
  • Stay in the vehicle until the storm passes

If it is not possible to pull off the road right away, reduce your driving speed and use the center line as your guide while continuing to drive to a safe location.

After a Dust Storm

After it appears that the dust storm has passed, driving conditions may still be compromised. Here are some tips on what to do after a dust storm has passed:

  • Only begin driving when visibility is 300 feet or greater
  • Beware of slippery pavement and obscured lane markings
  • Ensure everyone in the vehicle is wearing safety belts (It’s required for kids in Arizona, but a good idea for everyone)
  • Be prepared for heavy rain, which often follows dust storms
  • Keep your car radio on to listen to local weather alerts
  • Call the police if you are involved in an accident

“Driving into a dust storm is very dangerous, but the key is that oftentimes it can be avoided,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “Drivers must be ready to alter their plans if there is a threat of a dust storm. It’s better to change plans than try to power through dangerous conditions. But if you’re on the road and a dust storm suddenly appears near you, pull off the highway as quickly and safely as possible. Never drive through a dust storm. It’s not a risk worth taking.”

Dust Storms & Arizona Laws

Not only do dust storms have safety implications for Arizona drivers, but they a legal significance too. For example, Arizona traffic laws (Title 28, Chapter 3, Article 4) require drivers to notify the local police department, county sheriff, or highway patrol office of any accident that results in injury.  And a written accident report must be provided within 24 hours of completing an investigation.

If you or someone you care about has been involved in a dust storm accident, we can answer your questions and help you handle your claim. We understand how Arizona laws apply to dust storm situations and are here to serve our friends and neighbors.

Jemma writes for Comedy Defense Driving, a driving school with locations in Texas and Florida.

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