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Your Car Can Save Your Life Around Downed Power Lines

Electricity can be a very scary thing, especially when dealing with high voltages. Some overhead power lines running through your neighborhood can be as high as 69,000 volts and the really big power lines in the right-of-ways can be as high as 500,000 volts!

Trapped by a power line – via The Reporter

If you were to ever have a power line fall onto your car, there are a few things you might want to know if you don’t want to end up looking worse than Jeremy Clarkson on coal fired train!

Jeremy Clarkson in a coal train

While it may seem counterintuitive that you should stay in your car when there’s a power line bounding around on the hood, it really is the safest place for you. Here is a video of Richard Hammond sitting inside a car while being struck by lightning:

Seriously, downed electric lines are nothing to play around with. You can actually be killed just walking near a downed power line. It’s a phenomena called “Step Voltage” and it’s no laughing matter. Three people were recently killed due to a tragic step voltage event in Idaho:

Downed transmission lines – via ABC News 7

When your car is directly charged by a downed power line, the rubber tires of your car act as a great insulator, allowing your car to charge like a battery. While you are in the car, you are quite safe. It’s the getting out part that can be dangerous. When your hand is touching your car and your feet are on the ground, electrical currents can flow through your body generating hazardous voltages that can fibrillate your heart. This phenomena is called “Touch Voltage” and it can be quite deadly.

Farm equipment near downed power lines – via BC Hydro

In fact, Thomas Edison was quite aware of the step and touch voltage issue and even developed the electric chair as a means of trying to warn the public of the dangers of alternating-current to the human body:

So if you do ever find yourself in a car with a downed power line, you will want to stay in your car if you can. But, if your car is on fire, or if you have some other reason you have to leave the car before help can arrive, you will want to follow a few simple rules: 1. Jump out of your car making sure that you are not touching the car after you jump. 2. Shuffle your feet as you move away from the downed power lines. 3. Don’t touch anything, especially your car once you leave it.

Car with power pole – via News 9

Here is a great video from Puget Sound Energy explaining exactly what you need to do should your car hit a power pole:

Here is another great video of a transformer explosion and downed power line occurring during Hurricane Sandy. Watch out for those falling trees!

Hopefully, this will help you and your family stay safe out there. Things happen, and little knowledge can go a long way.

Keep driving my friends! My thanks to Larry for his help with this article.

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