Travel Safety In Arizona
Rule # 1. Pay Attention to Road & Trail Signs
Follow all signs. Warnings and precautions are posted for your protection.
A road sign that states "Don't enter area when raining" might seem rather strange to visitors - until they watch a news report of yet another car caught in a flash flood. If you are caught in a flash flood area and there is water in a wash (dip in road) DO NOT CROSS FLOODED AREA. Let the water drain from the area before proceeding.
A road sign stating "winding road" means there could be hair pin turns and NO guard rails. You could be mere feet from a deep canyon. I was once driving on such a road and saw a sign that said "don't drink and drive". I had to laugh. I was gripping the steering wheel with both hands and on high alert, plus fighting my fear of heights. The thought of alcohol brought images of melting vehicles deep in the canyon below.
Rule # 2: Plan Ahead and Notify Someone About Your Trip
Arizona is made up largely of undeveloped land. One building in an area is enough to earn a spot on the map. When we first moved here, we located a town near Phoenix on our map. It actually had its own dot. We thought it would be a nice destination for the day. We would do some shopping, have lunch - things you would normally do in places that are big enough to have their own dot on a map. When we got there, we found one building. That was it. An old saloon (actually a fun hisoric site) and it was closed. So much for lunch. The area was beautiful and well worth the trip, but we learned the importance of preparation.
All travel guides state the importance of notifying others about your travel plans. When I say "undeveloped" I mean that it is possible to get on a back road and drive for an extended period of time and not see another human. This is why I love Arizona. Arizona scenery is breathtaking, but its wild areas can be unforgiving. Keep a map with you at all times. Know where you are going and what to expect.
"Four wheel drive required" means that you will most likely rip out the bottom of your car unless it has high clearance. Many rural roads are not paved, and they often go through washes (areas that become rivers of water when it rains).
Rule # 3: Bring Water & Food
As I stated above, the fact that there is a dot on the map does not guarantee that a McDonald's is available. Bring plenty of water. If you are not sure what might be available in the next town, bring food as well. Children, babies and pets can become dehydrated very quickly. Be sure they are drinking plenty of fluids. Pets don't drink from bottles - remember to bring a bowl. Keep a close eye on children and pets for signs of exhaustion, hunger and dehydration.
Rule # 4: Use Sun Screen
Whether you are skiing in the high country or backpacking through the desert, the sun can be intense. Use sunscreen.
Rule # 5: Check Weather Conditions
If traveling to higher elevations, be prepared for quick changes in the weather. Thunderstorms roll in quickly in summer months and winter can bring snow and freezing temperatures.
Thunderstorms bring lightning strikes. This is especially dangerous in the forested areas. Thunderstorms hit both the high country and desert areas more frequently during the monsoon season, which tends to arrive in late July and run through August.
HEAT WARNING: The desert area can become hot even in winter. NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS UNATTENDED IN A VEHICLE. Local vehicles have tinted windows all around with the exception of the front window. Unless you don't mind burning yourself on the belt buckle, place a window screen inside the windshield any time it is parked in the sun. If traveling in summer, you might also consider an oven mitt. No kidding - metal door handles can be quite hot!
Rule # 6: Wear Appropriate Clothing / Hat / Shoes
For staying cool, 100% cotton clothing is superior to poly/cotton mixes. Protect your head from the sun (especially important for babies and those who have lost hair). Don't forget the back of the neck. If traveling to higher country or during winter, be prepared for the cold. Pets also require special covering for head, feet and body for protection from the elements. Children's hats work well for pets.
Don't forget your feet. On one of my first hikes out into the desert I wore sandals. I stepped slightly off the trail and found myself very close to an ant hill. They were not happy with me. I did a very fast "two step" back to the trail, avoiding their swarming anger. I learned that day why cowboys wear cowboy boots. I also learned what "stay on the trail" means.
Good quality sunglasses are a must for eye protection. Since most pets won't wear sunglasses, visors or other protection can be purchased from pet stores.
Rule # 7: Watch Fingers and Toes: Be Aware - Be Safe
Never place a hand or foot into an area that cannot be seen. That interesting hole in the ground could be the home of a stinging insect, venomous spider or snake.
Rule # 8: Know The Danger Of Our International Border
Remote areas such as our beautiful national parks, monuments and memorials are increasingly being used for smuggling, drug running and other illegal activities. Cactus Pipe National Monument is now considered to be the most dangerous park in the United States (half of it is now closed). High speed chases, gun fights and armed robberies occur in parks and small border towns.
Do not approach hitchhikers. Keep valuables locked and out of sight. Do not travel outside of well-marked roads. Do not make contact with anyone asking for assistance; instead notify the nearest bureau of land management or other law enforcement authority. CELL PHONES OFTEN DO NOT WORK IN REMOTE AREAS OF ARIZONA.
For a list of bureau of land management offices, go to:bureau of land management offices.
Endangered species and delicate ecosystems are threatened, visitors are threatened, and citizens are threatened. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Know the areas that are unsafe (remote areas along the southern border of the state).
For more information, go to:
National Park Service: Organ Pipe Cactus: Considered by many to be the most dangerous park in US. www.nps.gov
National Park Service: Coronado National Park: Dangers to park and visitors. Tips on staying safe. www.nps.gov
Rule # 9: Understand the danger of abandoned mines
STAY OUT - STAY SAFE! The Arizona State Mine Inspector states that there are approximately 100,000 abandoned mines in Arizona. The location of abandoned mines are not always known or documented. The mine shafts can be several hundred feet deep, and the entrance can be hidden by brush etc. BE CAREFUL! There has been an increasing number of deaths each year, caused by falls into abandoned mine shafts. Driving an ATV in the open country can be fun, but it can also be deadly. Several deaths have occurred from ATV's falling into open shafts whose entrances were unrecognizable by the driver. If you come across an abandoned mine, STAY OUT!
For more information, go to:
Arizona State Mine Inspector: Information on mine safety, abandoned mines, requirements for mine owners. Map of known mines in Arizona. www.asmi.state.az.us
Rule # 10: Learn About The Area Before You Go
We make this easy for you. Find a destination on our site. Read our review and look at our photographs. Then locate the following symbols (bottom of each destination page), which provide information on accessibility and traveling with pets and children.