MILLARD COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Gusts of strong winds and dry conditions could lead to sandstorms across the state this weekend. Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) urges drivers to be extra cautious while traveling this weekend.
Lt. Scott Robertson responded to a call, nearly one year ago, after a sandstorm caused a 22-vehicle pileup that left eight dead in Millard County. He hopes Utahns can prevent a similar tragedy from happening again on Utah highways.
For all those involved, a sandstorm in late July turned out to be a terrifying event. On I-15, in Millard County, 22 vehicles wrecked as a result of the storm. Sadly, eight people lost their lives.
“It was one of the worst things I have been to in 36 years,” Lt. Scott Robertson told ABC4. Lt. Robertson works for UHP Section 14 which covers both Millard County and Juab County. He was one of the first people to respond to that call one year ago.
“There was just a lot of, a lot of property damage, loss of life, just the sheer magnitude of it,” he stated. “It was a once-in-a-career incident. Or at least, I hope it only happens once.”
Throughout the weekend, there is a possibility of strong winds across the entire state. Lt. Robertson said he hopes drivers will be extra cautious while traveling in these conditions.
“People seem to be a little too comfortable driving and so I would hope that people would recognize that, watch their speed, wear their seat belts, not drive impaired, and put away their distractions.”
Lt. Robertson said it seems that drivers are far too distracted by their phones. He explained that drivers should always have a focus on the road and have their gaze scanning about a mile in front of them. He said because of phone use, people are often only looking at what is on the road immediately in front of their vehicle and don’t have enough time to react when they come across an obstacle. Using this method of focusing your attention far and near, he said, should allow you to see a sandstorm way before it hits and take early precautions to avoid it.
However, there is still a chance that a sandstorm can appear, seemingly, out of nowhere and catch drivers by surprise.
If that’s the case, there are a few things drivers can do to lessen the risk of being in an accident once visibility no longer allows you to keep driving safely. One, pull off to the side of the road. Two, put the car in park. Three, take your foot off the brake pedal. Four, turn off your headlights. All these steps can help reduce the risk of being rear-ended by other drivers.
If you do find yourself in an accident, Lt. Robertson advised that you “Call 911, stay in your vehicle, and just let it play out, and that’s going to be your best protection.”
The goal, nonetheless, is to prevent as many accidents as possible. Lt. Robertson urged Utahans to make a conscious decision to put all their focus on the road while driving. The phone can wait until you reach your destination. Lt. Robertson added: “If we all do our part, then these catastrophic events, you know, might not be as bad when they come about.”