Monsoons are here; drive carefully

Most Arizonans anticipate the erratic weather monsoon season brings to the state each summer. These storms give residents a much-needed break from the summer heat; however, they can also create dangerous driving conditions for motorists. Monsoon storms can range from minor dust storms to violent thunderstorms carrying strong winds, dry lightning, heavy rain and even flash floods. Drivers should use caution, as monsoons can move very quickly and strike without warning.

AAA Arizona recommends these tips to help motorists safely maneuver their vehicles during a monsoon storm:

• Slow down. Roads become slippery when water mixes with oil, dirt and grease making it harder to control a vehicle.

• Do not tailgate! Stopping distances are greater on wet, slippery roads.

• Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Traffic is heavier in bad weather.

• Check the tread on your tires. As tread wears, tires lose their ability to grip a wet surface. As a general rule of thumb, if you place a penny in between the tread of your tire, you shouldn't be able to see all of Lincoln's head. If his entire head is exposed, it's time to replace the tire.

• Wet weather places heavy demand on batteries and the charging system. Check, re-charge or replace your battery if necessary.

• Check your windshield wipers. Direct exposure to the sun coupled with Arizona's dry heat can cause wipers to crack and even fall off.

• Check your head and brake lights. Bad weather creates poor visibility, making it difficult to see other drivers, and difficult for other drivers to see you.

• If you get caught in a dust storm and cannot see, pull completely off the roadway and stop with your lights off. Lift your foot from the brake to ensure your brake lights are not lit. This will prevent other drivers from following your taillights, thinking you are still on the road. Never stop in the travel portion of the roadway.

• Do not drive through flooded areas or rushing water. Water is often deeper than it looks. It only takes six inches of rushing water to move a vehicle. In 1995 the Arizona State Legislature passed a bill called the "Stupid Motorist Law." This allows agencies to collect up to $2,000 for water rescues, if drivers purposely drive in flooded areas and get stuck.

Enjoy the monsoon season and the moisture it brings. Drive with caution. Don't become another statistic.

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