Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tips for Drivers Who Encounter Dust Storms

IDAHO STATE POLICE NEWS RELEASE - generated by our News Release ListServer

Teresa Baker
Public Information Officer
700 S. Stratford Dr., Meridian 83642
(208) 884-7122

For Immediate Release:

Tips for Drivers Who Encounter Dust Storms

BOISE - During the past couple of weeks various parts of Idaho have experienced blowing dust carried by gale-force winds creating blinding conditions for motorists on interstates and highways. These storms are dangerous to the traveling public and extreme caution should be used if they are encountered.

Just yesterday a dust storm caused Interstate 15 to close in both directions for several hours between Idaho Falls and Roberts, as well as a part of State Highway 32. Two weeks ago Interstate 86 west of Pocatello was also closed in both directions for more than 5 1/2 hours because of near zero visibility. When the dust settled, nearly two-dozen vehicles were damaged and nine people were transported to hospitals for medical treatment.

The Idaho State Police and the Idaho Transportation Department offer the following advice to motorists who may unexpectedly encounter high winds and low visibility:

* Do not attempt to drive into or through a dust storm.

* If you encounter a dust storm, check for other vehicles in front, behind or next to your vehicle and begin slowing down.

* Do not wait until visibility becomes so poor that you can't turn around to wait out the storm at a safe location. Exit or pull off the highway until conditions improve.

* Do not stop in a travel lane or emergency lane. If the highway shoulder is relatively flat, pull completely off the paved surface. Try to leave an adequate buffer between your vehicle and the highway.

* Remain in your vehicle and ensure that all occupants have their seatbelts fastened. The safest place to be if your car is struck by another vehicle is inside your own.

* Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers. Drivers behind you might become disoriented and follow your taillights, believing you are still on the highway.

* Once you are off the pavement, set your vehicle's parking brake and take your foot off the brake so that other drivers do not follow your lights.

* If you have cell phone coverage, call 9-1-1 or *ISP (*477) after stopping, to report your location as precisely as possible and advise of low visibility hazards.

* Drivers of high-profile vehicles such as vans, recreational vehicles, large SUVs and towed trailers face the additional challenge of maintaining control in high winds. If possible, pull off the highway at a safe location to wait for winds to subside.

* These tips are also applicable if you encounter blowing snow and low visibility.

* Before traveling on rural highways that have a history of blowing dust, check the 511 Traveler Information system. Call 5-1-1 or visit 511.idaho.gov on the web to learn of prevailing conditions or forecasts that predict high winds.