Nintzel: Prepare for highway trips as Arizona transitions to warmer weather

Posted 4/8/21

The annual transition is underway. As April arrives, many Arizonans start to deal with the reality that winter weather is long gone and pleasant spring temperatures will make way for the “hot stuff.”

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Nintzel: Prepare for highway trips as Arizona transitions to warmer weather

The Arizona Department of Transportation recommends making special preparations whenever traveling in Arizona during hot weather. [Courtesy of ADOT]
The Arizona Department of Transportation recommends making special preparations whenever traveling in Arizona during hot weather. [Courtesy of ADOT]
Posted

The annual transition is underway. As April arrives, many Arizonans start to deal with the reality that winter weather is long gone and pleasant spring temperatures will make way for the “hot stuff.”

This also is a good time to prepare yourself, and your vehicle, for travel on our Arizona highways.

Just like ADOT reminds you each fall to make sure you have an emergency preparedness kit in your car or truck in case something affects your winter weather travel, we’re here again - but this time with summer travel in mind.

First, you should still take precautions during the current health situation.

It’s likely OK to put the snow gloves and extra boots away, but many of the items you can carry in a winter weather emergency prep kit will be the same ones you’d have in a hot weather kit.

Whether you pack a crate, a storage container or cardboard box, the key is to not ignore this chore.

You never know when an unscheduled, unexpected event will close one of our state highways. Vehicles, including big rigs, break down and sometimes block lanes. Wildfires can force closures too. Fire crews might need to stage equipment on a highway.

And in addition to serious crashes, sometimes all it takes is a minor fender bender to back up traffic on highways that get us to and from the high country.

So, yes; you need to be prepared and expect the unexpected.

In my case, I also bring a small cooler with ice and extra drinking water. The extra water is the key here. It’s so important to have some in case you’re in a spot where traffic is stopped and summer temperatures are soaring. You should pack things that will make the situation much more bearable.

An extra blanket is still a good thing to have. You may have to kneel on it while changing a tire. Other items include a first aid kit, hats, sunglasses and an extra set loose-fitting cotton clothing. An umbrella is a good idea for either shade or protection from rain.

Since travel delays are possible, don’t forget an adequate amount of prescription medicines.

We also recommend a flashlight, extra batteries, a fully charged cell phone and charger, healthy snacks, baby diapers if necessary and a small tool kit.

You also are going to want to take steps to limit problems with your vehicle. Having engine fluid levels, fan belts and tire pressure checked could save you risky time spent along a busy or lonely stretch of highway. Proper tire pressure is so important for reducing the risk of a blowout in hot weather.

This also is a good time to check the condition of your windshield wipers. Heading into a summer monsoon storm is a bad time to discover that little strip of detached wiper is waving around like an inflatable tube man at your local auto store’s weekend sale.

Year round, it’s also smart to not let your gas tank level drop too low. The old adage is to try to keep your tank three-quarters full, although I have to admit I have a poor track record doing that.

We also ask you to be a smart, safe driver. No aggressive speeding, tailgating or unsafe lane changes. Those add up to a recipe for tragedy.

Here’s hoping these reminders haven’t made you too sleepy. Speaking of which, get plenty of rest before heading out on a trip. Never drive while impaired, whether by alcohol or even prescription drugs that can cause drowsiness.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT.

When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app for ADOT Alerts (available at ADOTAlerts.com) will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas and, when possible, in advance of alternate routes.

ADOT has more on our Extreme Weather Safety site. If you’re heading to the high country or another destination as our weather heats up, don’t just jump in the car in your shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. You’ll be a happy camper if you prepare an emergency kit and actually expect the unexpected.

Doug Nintzel is a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Visit azdot.gov.

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