PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation has a message for motorists who think they can recklessly drive head-on into a dust storm: “Pull Aside, Stay Alive.”
Following the successful launch of last year’s public awareness campaign, ADOT is intensifying its efforts to educate drivers about the threat of dust storms as monsoon season officially begins in Arizona on June 15. ADOT, along with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the National Weather Service, has reactivated its “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” public awareness campaign, including television and radio public-education announcements, to educate drivers about what to do (and what not to do) when they encounter dust storms.
ADOT’s mission is to provide valuable information to drivers before they get caught in a low-visibility dust storm. This year, the agency’s top recommendation is to avoid driving into a wall of dust at all costs.
“Driving into a dust storm is dangerous, and oftentimes it can be avoided. This is a message that can’t be emphasized enough,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “During monsoon season, drivers and their passengers must do their part by planning ahead if there are threats of a dust storm. It’s better to alter travel plans than to attempt to drive 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. Do not drive through a dust storm. It’s a risk you don’t have to take and remember to never drive distracted.”
Dust storms develop quickly, and dust-related crashes can occur, particularly along the Interstate 10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. To advise drivers of approaching storms, ADOT employs a range of strategies —including electronic highway message boards, social and traditional media, communication with ADOT staff and law enforcement officers in the field, television and radio advertising and close coordination with partnering agencies — to keep information flowing to motorists.
ADOT, along with its partnering agencies, has established www.PullAsideStayAlive.org to showcase the public-education video and to reinforce driver safety messages. The website also includes a tip sheet, which ADOT encourages drivers to print and keep handy in their vehicle.
During this week, which is Arizona Monsoon Awareness Week, ADOT will be using social media to engage Arizonans in spreading the word to “Pull Aside, Stay Alive.” In addition to blog posts (http://adotblog.blogspot.com) and Facebook posts (www.Facebook.com/AZDOT), the “Haboob Haiku Challenge” is back for a second year at http://twitter.com/ArizonaDOT: use #HaboobHaiku. Anyone can channel their inner poet and show off their creativity to help educate the public about the dangers of driving in dust storms.
Tips for drivers who encounter a dust storm:
• Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
• If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately 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.
• Stop the vehicle in a position ensuring it is a safe distance from the main roadway and away from where other vehicles may travel.
• Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.
• Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
• Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts 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.
• A driver’s alertness and safe driving ability are always the top factors in preventing crashes.