The Arizona Department of Transportation is taking action to make a stretch of Interstate 10 that’s prone to devastating dust-related crashes much safer.
Dust and driving can be a deadly combination. From 2010 to 2015 there were 85 dust-related crashes along I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix, more than half of those happened within about a mile of the same spot, milepost 214, near Picacho Peak.
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According to Tom Herrmann, with ADOT, this area is known as ground zero for dust-related crashes in Arizona.
“To the west, you can go a hundred miles, and you really won't run across much regarding mountains or development or cities or really anything,” Herrmann explains.
And when a storm rips through dusty Pinal County, the winds send that soil right over a stretch of I-10 that more than 100,000 vehicles travel daily.
“This is a vital corridor for the people who live in Arizona, for the economy of Arizona and we want to make it as safe as we can make it,” Herrmann said.
Three people were killed on this stretch of road in 2013 during a dust storm, ADOT hopes a new $150-million project will keep that from happening again.
The project will expand I-10 to six lanes all the way through the area and install a dust detection zone.
Specialized short and long-range radar will alert officials to dust and reduced visibility along the highway, allowing them to send alerts to new electronic message boards and activate variable speed limit signs to slow drivers down and those adjusting speed limits aren’t suggestions.
“They're real,” Herrmann said. “If the speed limit sign says slow down to 35 mph than you need to slow down to 35 mph because DPS will be out here.”
Construction on the freeway widening is already underway followed by the dust detection zone this fall. ADOT plans to have the entire project operational by the summer of 2019.
If you encounter a dust storm while driving remember these tips:
- Safely pull off the roadway.
- Turn off your lights and put your vehicle in PARK. Leave your foot off the brake, so your brake lights are not illuminated. Other motorists may tend to follow taillights as an attempt to get through the dust storm and may strike your vehicle from behind.
- Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.