Pooling ideas to reduce the dangers from dust storms

Dust Storm

Dust Storm

By Tom Herrmann / ADOT Communications

You’ve heard this one before: Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.

Perhaps.

Weather professionals, scientists, engineers and others met recently at Central Arizona College to talk about a weather phenomenon that seems to strike in Arizona more than anywhere else: dust storms. It’s the fifth consecutive year the group has come together to talk about how to make Arizona roads safer when winds out in front of storms kick up a wall of dust.

Dust Detection Program

Dust Detection Program

This year's program included ADOT engineer Reza Karimvand explaining an innovative dust detection project planned for a stretch of I-10 near Picacho. It will identify when blowing dust has reduced visibility and automatically set in motion electronic messages and lower speed limits to reduce the danger for drivers. This system, which could become a model for other states, is expected to advertise for bids this summer, Karimvand said.

Another prime topic: education. One participant suggested putting dust storm information on the test for a driver license. Another suggested an education program for the trucking industry modeled after ADOT’s Pull Aside, Stay Alive campaign, which has been in place since 2011.

Technology can help make roads like Interstate 10 safer, but the best defense against blowing dust may just be an old standby: personal responsibility. Whatever technology brings, it will never be safe to drive into a dust storm. So don't.