Friday, October 7, 2011

The Wrong Way to Respond to Dust Storm Questions

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Courtesy of the Department of Public Safety in today's Arizona Daily Star:

"Dust storms don't kill people; highways don't kill people. Drivers kill people," said Bart Graves, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. "They panic and they do the wrong thing and something bad happens."

I was in one really terrible dust storm on my way back from Phoenix at night, so I'd like to offer one rebuttal to Mr. Graves. The storm I was in came on in an instant. One minute it was raining and windy and traffic was moving slow, the next minute, my windshield was white with dust. I pulled over, but to be frank, I had no idea what I was pulling over into. I could have rolled my car into a ditch, and it wouldn't have been my fault. A truck could have decided to pull over directly into me and there wouldn't have been a thing either the driver or I could have done about it. This was what was going through my mind as I sat in my car, wondering if I should call my wife and tell her that I love her. After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, the dust cleared and I was fine. Still, it doesn't work out as well every time the wind kicks up by I-10.

I guess theoretically if something would have happened that the dust storm wouldn't have killed me, but that another driver would have been the actual cause of death, but I don't know that it would have taken someone panicking or doing the "wrong thing". Something bad could have happened just because an absurd amount of dust traveled across a busy road at an inopportune time and drivers tried to make the best decision they could at the moment...and it still resulted in someone losing their life.

I don't know what caused the pileup the other day or if anything can actually be done, considering most of the path between Tucson and Phoenix is framed by clear-cut stretches of land cut down to the ultra-dry soil, but it seems worth looking into some sort of solution. At very least, Bart Graves, you might want to think before you blame the victims in an accident for reacting to a situation they shouldn't have needed to expect or prepare for.

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