How to Survive a Dust Storm While Driving in Arizona

Image: ADOT
Tuesday's triple-fatality pileup on Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak wasn't the worst in Arizona history.

Dust-storm collisions are a fact of life here in the desert, ever since our forefathers laid down the superhighways. At the average cruising speed on Interstate 10 -- about 90 mph, most days -- being rendered suddenly blind is probably the worst thing that can happen.

Here are several tips that may allow you to survive should this weather phenomenon catch you on the open road:

See also:
- Arizona Drivers Still Can't Drive in the Rain

* Let technology help you. Turn that weather alert on your smartphone back on. While nothing but an annoyance in the climate-controlled environment of your home, the alert could save your life. Find your phone's settings and notifications and turn that sucker on for road trips, especially if you're on Interstate 10, one of the most notorious roads in the country for pileups.

* Don't think that just because it's not monsoon season, you're safe. As Tuesday's deadly crash showed, blinding dust can cause accidents at many different times of the year. One of the state's deadliest was in April 1995, when 10 people died on I-10 near Bowie. A list of the state's worst dust-storm-related crashes compiled by Channel 15 on Tuesday shows they've occurred from March to October.

* Follow the Three-Second Rule, a.k.a., Driving Like Grandpa. Most of these pileup crashes occur when someone comes zooming in from behind. The answer is, duh, slow down. In normal driving, making sure that you're at least three seconds behind the driver in front of you pretty much assures you'll have time to react to anything. Driving like a grandpa tends to cause people who want to text and speed to pass you. As visibility decreases further, they're more likely to be the ones crumpled under the semi-truck.

* On a trip from Phoenix to El Paso once, we encountered what was essentially an all-day dust storm. Visibility was bad, but not so bad that traffic wasn't moving. Pulling off the road and waiting it out wasn't really an option. Okay, it was an option, but we didn't pull over. We have no advice for this situation -- just mentioning it.

* Learn all those neat tips about surviving dust storms. As long as the government spent some of your money on a website and made a video, why not check it out? The URL is Or click here for the meat of the website, the list of tips.

* You don't really need to go to the website. What it boils down to is this: When the dust storm impairs your visibility, pull all the way off the paved part of the road as possible, make sure no light is emanating from your automobile, and keep your seat belts on.

Image: ADOT

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Don Collins
Don Collins

The best thing to do is pull off the side of the road as far as possible and turn off you lights .


I-10 from Tempe to Tucson is the worst. The three lane parts are much safer now giving more margin to get out to the way of the maniacs who think driving 10 over the 75mph speed limit is way too restrictive. Usually some knucklehead in a high pick up or a huge SUV with Scottsdale markings. The narrows at Eloy and on the GRIC clearly need the widening. These two locations should be the top priority in The State of Arizona. 35 years ago the talk was the need for GRIC widening.

valleynative topcommenter

I prefer terminology like "driving as if you're not an asshole" to "driving like Grandpa", but then, I'm probably old enough to be the Grandpa of most of your readers.  I've also never rear-ended anybody, ever.

Note that leaving a safe distance doesn't mean that you have to drive slower.   Too many morons believe that driving closer to the car in front of you means you're moving faster.

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