How to Stay Safe on the Road During a Dust Storm

It's heating up in Arizona, which means dust-storm season will soon be upon us. While the frequency of dust storms varies widely from year to year (anyone remember 2011 in Phoenix?), even one storm can wreak havoc on drivers. That's why our bosses at the Arizona Department of Transportation are reminding everyone of the "Pull Aside, Stay Alive" campaign.

Here are the steps ADOT recommends you take if you're on the road and a dust storm hits:

  • 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, 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.

To learn more, visit ADOT's Pull Aside, Stay Alive page.

Photo: Daniel Bryant (2011 Phoenix haboob)


This is pretty much common sense advice in a dust storm. The only question I have is, why should your lights or emergency flashers be turned off?

the reason you turn off all lights is so that another driver doesn't follow the lights and think you are in a driving lane. It helps to prevent cars from hitting you.

You turn off your lights so other drivers won't see them and assume you're still moving.

Why do you want the lights off, I would think you want as much light as possible so somebody doesn't run into you.

Experience has shown that other motorists will think they are following your stopped vehicle and crash into it.

It was stated that "experience shows". Who's experience? Any driver should approach with caution or stay clear of vehicles with hazard lights on. There is also a likelihood that other drivers could be following the stated procedure and run into you because you didn't have hazard lights on. Especially on I-10 due to all the traffic. I think the procedure is flawed in that regard.

I find it very ironic that no other place in United States during a storm instructs they're public to turn off their lights and make themselves less visible, via heavy rain, fog, winter white outs. Case scenario what about the person that believes that they are off the road during a dust storm but it's still in the road with their lights off? You always want to make yourself visible in a storm not less visible. The public should be real educated to use caution when emergency flashers or lights are being used in any case the onus is on the driver.

You’re the only sensible person here. Hazard lights mean slow down and stop, period, never “follow ME!!!”

I agree

So what do you do if your riding your motorcycle and a dust storm happens. I have not been to Arizona but do plan on riding there early August and staying a week. Info would be nice

If you see a dust storm coming, try to get inside if at all possible. Always keep a couple of large bandanas on your person. They're good for keeping you cool, if they are wet. Wear on head and around neck. You can also wrap them around your nose/mouth/eyes if you get caught in a dust storm. They work better if they are wet or damp, but they will help to keep dust out of your lungs and eyes even if they are dry and you just hold the cloth over your nose and mouth.

Be sure to have your vehicle checked and serviced after you have been in a dust storm. Driving through one a few years ago in S Arizona, I needed to have all filters in my car replaced and the engine compartment washed. The windshield of a fairly new car still shows small pit marks. The paint was shielded by a coating of Polysteel. Not a fun travel episode!

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