Deep into dealing with triple-digit heat, dust and monsoon rains, Tucson motorists need to be prepared for quick-changing weather conditions that can make driving conditions dangerous.

The heat is known to have negative effects on vehicles, making it important for drivers to check the battery and fluid levels under the hood regularly.

It’s best to be prepared.

“It’s imperative that you plan, if you’re just going out of the way from the house for even an hour, you need to plan your trip and make sure that you have plenty of water,” said Craig Bowles, a 28-year veteran with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. “If you have children in the car, you have snacks, formula and diapers and first aid that you can use if something does happen.”

It’ll be too late when being caught in standstill traffic after a crash. Serious crashes on Interstate 10 have shut down travel for hours. Bowles said drivers should have at least a gallon per person in the vehicle just in case.

If you do find yourself involved in a minor incident, Bowles added it’s best to “pull as far off the pavement as you possibly can” to give first responders room to work.

Last year, the Arizona Department of Public Safety helped 75,235 stranded motorists across the state.

Many of these calls were handled by the department’s Roadside Motorist Assistance program.

Personnel are equipped to diagnose and handle minor vehicle problems on the highways.

Bowles has spent the last couple months helping stranded motorists as a roadside motorist assistant. And some of those calls put him in harm’s way as drivers fail to adhere to Arizona’s “Move Over” law.

“There are very courteous drivers out there, but I would say 70 to 80% of the drivers do not move over, even if they have the opportunity to move over,” Bowles said. “I have almost been hit several times. I’ve had to jump over cars and over the trunks to get out of the way, it’s a very dangerous business out there.”

Drivers also put themselves in danger when tow chains are not properly restrained. The metal dragging on the asphalt can spark brush fires.

It’s good to know if your vehicle can tow the load and withstand travel at high speeds.

Wildfires can also be sparked from tall grass being exposed to a vehicle’s exhaust system.

Monsoon storms

Monsoon season here means additional weather hazards from thunderstorms, floods and blowing dust.

Dust storms usually last only a few minutes, but the actions a motorist take “may be the most important of his or her life,” the National Weather Service said about monsoon safety.

The weather service is one of the agencies pushing the “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” tactic during a dust storm.

In a dust storm, motorists should immediately check for other vehicles, slow down and safely pull off the road as soon as possible.

Once safe, turn off all vehicle lights, lift the emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.

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Vehicles on the road could think the brake lights are the path to take.

Everyone in the vehicle should leave their seatbelt on.

Beyond waves of dust, monsoon storms can also cause flooding and flash floods that can sweep vehicles away.

The easiest thing to do is heed the signs from the local departments in flood areas. It’s a bad idea — and illegal — to drive around barricades.

The National Weather Service says it only takes 1 to 2 feet of water to float most vehicles. Even the swift water in local areas isn’t safe to test.

“If you see the rain is pouring, don’t enter that monsoon,” Bowles said. “If it starts to rain really hard, try to pull over to the side of the road and stop. Wait until the monsoon dissipates.”

Down the Road

Delays expected for State Route 83 in Sonoita: Motorists should expect delays on State Route 83 between Old Sonoita Highway and Mokes Mile Trail from Tuesday through Thursday that week for paving work.

Intermittent lane closures will occur from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Motorists should use caution and watch for personnel in the area.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.