The monsoon is just around the corner, and with it comes the potential for deadly dust storms.
The Interstate 10 corridor from Tucson to Phoenix is always a big problem, but now a state senator believes he's found a solution.
In October 2013, a nasty dust storm overtook the I-10 just north of Picacho Peak. It caused a 19-vehicle pileup that killed three people.
"I'll never forget an SUV spinning through the air towards me, crashing into the median," said Sen. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat who was caught up in the carnage of the 2013 crash. “They are nothing to trifle with. These dust storms are serious business.” Farley wasn't hurt, but seeing so much tragedy caused by dust has led him on a crusade to find the solution to keeping drivers safe. Now, he believes the answer has been right in front of us for the past 40 years.
"Save lives in six easy steps, courtesy of a 1985 report on a 1977 study," said Farley, holding up a United States Department of Agriculture report from long ago.
Farley said the USDA had a project just south of Picacho Peak in 1977. Bulldozers piled several berms 18 inches high beside the freeway, topped with native mesquite and salt cedar trees to form a windbreak.
"And if you look at the accident rates to that spot, comparing the '70s to the '80s and '90s, it completely eliminated the problem in that spot," said Farley.
For some reason the project was never expanded.
According to statistics from the Arizona Department of Transportation, dust storms on the I-10 between Casa Grande and Marana caused 144 crashes between 2001 and 2011. For that reason, Farley believes we should revisit the strategy from the ‘70s and see if it's really as good as it seems.
"It seems like a fairly easy solution and fairly cheap, too, and that's something we need these days is cheap and easy to save lives," said Farley.
Farley said the biggest challenge to the project would be getting private land owners along the interstate to get on board. He plans to reach out to some of those land owners soon.
ADOT said it currently uses warning signs on highways and awareness campaigns to keep drivers safe during blowing dust.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH ON THIS ONE!!!!!
As an Arizona trial attorney, I have been involved for many years in cases against the State of Arizona for their neglect of conditions on Interstate 10.
Dozens and dozens of people have died in crossover accidents. The State knows this. The State has been sued for this. The State has paid millions of dollars in lawsuit damages to the families bringing these claims, and there are many more cases still in the courts.
So, of course, recognizing these dangerous conditions, the State of Arizona has undertaken efforts to remedy the dangerous conditions, right? To make it safer, right? Nope, wrong. Not even close.
In fact, not only has the State ignored the problem, but to date, the State still refuses to even admit there is a problem.
Question: How many people will die before the State does something? This remains to be seen, and the accidents are continuing.
Isn’t it interesting , that not until a State official personally experiences something like this, is there even any talk of getting something done?
- In 1999, a friend of then Governor Hull was badly injured in a crossover accident on SR 51. The Governor immediately ordered median barriers be installed throughout the entire metro area.
- Several months ago, a State senator was inconvenienced while driving home from work. There now is a state law prohibiting panhandlers from pushing traffic buttons if they don’t intend to cross.
- Now, with dust storm season approaching, because Sen. Farley personally almost experienced the danger, something may be in the works.
We cannot get median barriers on Interstate 10 to prevent people from dying (last year, 5 members of the same family died in one crossover accident).
We cannot get a law against texting and driving, because there are too many laws already (yet, passing another one so a senator would have to be inconvenienced wasn’t an issue).
WOULD A FIX BE APPROPRIATE AND WELCOME IF IT COULD PREVENT DUST STORM ACCIDENTS AND DEATHS? OF COURSE IT WOULD, BUT HONESTLY, ABSENT A HIGHER-UP GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIAL, OR A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER BEING AFFECTED, JUST DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH.