The monsoons are off to a slow start this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have some severe weather conditions on our hands. The monsoons bring much needed water to the desert, but they also bring flooded road ways, massive dust storms, low visibility, and other such driving hazards.
Here are 14 tips from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) to keep motorists safe on the road during the monsoon season:
- Go Slow. In bad weather the posted speed limit may not be safe. When it first starts raining the roads are slick with oil, which makes them more slippery. Your vehicle will have less traction on a wet road than it will on a dry road and slower speeds will allow for safer braking and stopping distances. If it is a highly rainy day, water will pool on the roads which could cause you to hydroplane if you are going too fast.
- Give other drivers space. It is important to leave plenty of room between your vehicle and other vehicles during inclement weather. Stopping and braking distances are affected by the wet and slippery roads. You should increase your space from three seconds to at least six seconds. This means that it should take six seconds for you to reach a spot that the car in front of you passes. For example, when a car that is in front of you passes a sign you should count, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” up to at least the sixth Mississippi. If you pass the sign before you reach six Mississippi, then you are following too close.
- Watch for water pooling up on the roads and avoid them if possible to avoid hydroplaning.
- Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Never enter an area that has been barricaded due to flooding. It is against the law and very dangerous. If a driver needs rescue from a flooded wash that has posted warning signs or gates they may be held responsible for the cost of the rescue under Arizona’s “Stupid Motorist Law.” However, even if a roadway has yet to be barricaded and it appears flooded, then you should avoid it. You do not know how fast that water is running or how deep it is. It only takes one or two feet of water to float most cars.
- Make sure that your headlights are on. Visibility is limited when it is storming. You want to make sure that you are not only seeing all that you can, but that other drivers can see you.
- Stay extra alert in the dark. Visibility is even more compromised at night. Slow down and pay extra close attention to changing weather and road conditions.
- Often times, before the rain begins, monsoons bring heavy winds which could result in a dust storm. Make sure you can maintain a strong grip on your vehicle to avoid swerving in these winds. Also, watch for blowing dust and avoid driving into a dust storm if possible.
- Pull Aside, Stay Alive. If you are unable to avoid the dust storm, then you should pull over and wait it out. While you are driving have your headlights on and slow down. Pull as far off to the right side of the road as possible. Do not stop on the roadway or the emergency shoulder area. Once you are off the road, stop, and shut off your lights and engine. Stay in your car and keep your foot off of the brake pedal. If drivers see your lights on the side of the road, they may think you are still in motion and attempt to follow you, and inevitably crash into you.
- If you come across an intersection with a broken traffic signal it should be treated as a four-way stop.
- Keep your vehicle in good condition. Head and tail lamps, along with your turn signals, should all be working properly. Maintain proper tire pressure and replace worn out tires for better traction. You should also make sure that your brakes are in good condition, and that you have new wiper blades and that the washer fluid is topped off.
- Carry an emergency kit -or at the very least extra food and water- to be prepared for the chance of unforeseen delays; such as construction, flooded roads, accidents, or other traffic delays.
- If you suffer a mechanical breakdown or tire failure, remain calm, slow down, keep the steering wheel straight, and drive the vehicle to a safe area as far from traffic as possible.
- ALWAYS wear your seat belt!
- Check the weather before you hit the road. If there is any chance you can avoid driving in the inclement weather, then you should do so. You should know what the difference between the various weather warnings are so you can make an educated decision before you hit the road. (Warnings are not issued for lightning, mainly because most thunderstorms, no matter how weak, produce deadly cloud-to-ground lightning.)
- Watches mean that widespread severe weather is possible. A watch means that severe weather has not occurred yet, but weather conditions are becoming highly volatile. Pay close attention to the weather, and tune into TV, radio, or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts frequently.
- Warnings (Severe Thunderstorm, Flash Flood, Dust Storm, and rarely Tornado) mean that life-threatening weather is about to occur, or has been reported. Action should be taken immediately.
- Flood Advisories mean heavy rains will cause minor flooding of washes, streams, and typical flood-prone areas. Flooding in this situation is usually not serious. If the flooding does become life threatening, then the flood advisory is upgraded to a Flash Flood Warning.
Remember to be a patient and courteous driver. Keep in mind that all of the other motorists are facing the same conditions as you. For more tips on driving in inclement weather, such as responding to a skid, click here. If you have any concerns over the condition of your vehicle, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us at Virginia Auto Service. Call us at 602-266-0200, or schedule an appointment here.