Smart technology is about to take off on Arizona freeways by serving as a major safety tool during dust storms.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is installing variable speed limit signs that can digitally change the speed limit at any time.
ADOT is about ready to put its new dust sensors to work near Picacho Peak where 85 crashes have been logged during dust storms between 2010 and 2015.
When those sensors register a storm, the speed limit will automatically start changing on 16 solar runs with digital signs set up on each side of the road in both directions. The speed limit will lower in 10-mile-an-hour increments every thousand feet until drivers are going as slow as 35 mph.
"We're embracing the technology to try to make the roads safer wherever it is," said ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann.
ADOT is sticking with the mantra ‘pull aside, stay alive’ but they also know not all drivers do that even along the state's most dangerous stretch of road during dust storms.
Officials believe this technology is a proactive approach to preventing crashes.
"These are enforceable speed limits; these aren't suggestions. When that variable speed sign says 35, you need to drive 35 because you know DPS will be there, "Herrmann said.
He adds that in the future the signs could also be used to help slow traffic when a crash happens, or it could open the door to setting up more variable speed limit signs on other freeways in the state that are prone to crashes.
Construction starts this fall, and we'll see the smart signs in action in 2019.