Dust storms, also known as haboobs, hit the drier regions of the states frequently in the summertime. So how do you drive through a dust storm? The answer is: you don't.
The Dangers of Haboobs
You should avoid driving through a dust storm at all costs. The debris in the air during these storms block out light and make it nearly impossible to see anything on the road. When you are faced with a dust storm while driving, you should always pull over and stop. The Arizona Department of Transportation has even started a campaign to implement this with its "Pull Aside, Stay Alive" campaign.
So What Should You Do?
The most important thing to do during a dust storm is to be aware of your surroundings. With that in mind, here are the steps to surviving a haboob based on information from the Arizona Department of Transportation:
- Check for other vehicles around you and slow down.
- Look for a safe place to pull over.
- Turn off all vehicle lights.
- Park your vehicle as far away from the roads as you can.
- Put on your vehicle's emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
- Wait in your vehicle until the storm passes.
You want to turn off all vehicle lights because you don't want other drivers who make the bad decision to drive through the storm to use your vehicle lights as a guide on the road. The drivers driving through the storm may not be able to tell if you are parked or coming to a stop, so it's better to stay out of sight. Parking your vehicle farther from the roads will help avoid other collisions.
Haboobs are most common in Arizona, and a few places in California and Texas. If you are in an area where dust storms are more likely to occur, there are some things you can do to be more prepared. Keeping a dust brush and some bottled water in your car can help you clean out the dirt from your car parts after the storm passes so you can continue your drive. In case the haboob lingers for a while or you can't get your car started after the storm, it's a good idea to keep basic emergency items such as energy bars, blankets, a flashlight and a first aid kit in your car as well.
Haboobs can last anywhere from 1-3 hours, and since they are difficult to predict, knowing how to react can help prevent accidents and injury.