Dust storms are a dangerous hazard for New Mexico drivers, and it has led the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to make specific efforts to reduce interstate deaths. The NMDOT said they have shut down the interstate 15 times since January due to dust or high windows, but no lives have been lost.
Among the steps taken this year by the NMDOT were:
- Planting more vegetation
- Widening the stretch of interstate to increase soon for pulling over
- Installing large lighted signs to advise drivers what to do during a storm
- Acquired more dust detectors to alert state officials of an oncoming storm
Interstate 10 is notorious for accidents related to brownouts, many of which have been deadly. In June 2017, a dust storm settled on a busy stretch of the freeway and led to an accident involving multiple vehicles. Six people lost their lives in that accident, and days later there were more crashes that led to two more deaths. That same stretch of I-10 experienced a fiery, dust-related accident three years prior.
Pull aside, stay alive
New Mexico's neighbor to the west has an awareness campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of driving through a storm, and the information is useful for New Mexico motorists as well. If caught in a storm, drivers should:
- Immediately begin slowing down
- Check surrounding traffic
- If possible, completely exit the highway
- Turn off all vehicle lights, including emergency flashers
- Set the emergency brake and take the foot off the brake
- Stay in the vehicle with seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass
Car accidents related to dust storms are not completely preventable, but with statewide efforts and safe driving practices they can be greatly reduced.