Surviving Auto Accidents Involving Power Lines

Having a power line fall on your car can be one of the most frightening experiences you could ever have involving a motor vehicle. When a power line falls on your car, the potential exists for the vehicle to be energized with electricity, therefore if you attempt to exit it as you normally do, you could be electrocuted. The natural path for electricity is to the ground. And because tires are not good conductors of electricity, your body might become the conductor if you touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time.

In some cases, the vehicle can remain energized and anyone who touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time could be electrocuted.

If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, follow these safety rules:

  • If your car isn’t on fire, call 911 and stay in your car. If you don’t have a cell phone and aren’t able to dial 911, ask anyone who approaches if they will call for you, but let them know not to touch the vehicle. Do not have them hand you the phone; instead, tell them to call 911, explain the situation and provide your location.
  • Be extremely cautious not to touch the car’s frame. If there are other passengers in the car, communicate with them that the safest thing you can do is to stay inside. Even one person exiting the car incorrectly could put everyone in danger of electrocution.
  • Be aware of other automobiles coming behind you or approaching the power lines from the opposite lane; honk your horn to signal to them that they should not get near the line.
  • Alert those in the area not to touch your car or get anywhere near the fallen power line.
  • Once the responders arrive to the scene, they may approach the car and possibly ask questions or give you instructions. Follow whatever advice they give you, as they will be able to assess your individual situation. Only exit the car after the utility has disconnected and grounded the power line and it is safe to get out of your vehicle.
  • If you think your car is on fire, make sure before taking the risk to evacuate. If you see smoke but no flames, watch the smoke to make sure that it isn’t exhaust or steam from the radiator coming from your car. Smoke is thick and won’t dissipate quickly, whereas exhaust will fade into the air. If you see flames, your car is definitely on fire and you should vacate as quickly and carefully as you can. Proceed by following these important steps:
  1. Open the latch of the door and push it open. Remove any loose-fitting clothing like jackets or scarves. The metal frame of the car could be charged with electricity by the power line, so it’s important not to contact the car and the ground at the same time.
  2. After you open the door to the car, hold your legs together and bring them slightly inward toward your body. Rotate your body, making sure to not let your feet or any other part of your body touch the ground while touching the car at the same time. Jump, don’t slide, out of the car. Your body should be in the air, not sitting in the car, when your feet touch the ground.
  3. Shuffle away from your car as fast as you can, keeping both feet together on the ground at all times. Alternately, you could also hop away from your car. If you choose to hop from the car, make sure that both of your feet hit the ground at the same time. Keep going until you’re at least 40 feet from the car.
  4. Call 911 – tell them your exact location and let them know that a power line has fallen onto your car and that the vehicle has caught on fire. They will instruct you as to the safe measures needed to get you and your passengers to safety.

Remember, fallen or broken power lines may still be energized, even if they’re not sparking, smoking or making a buzzing sound. A basic knowledge of electrical safety can change the outcome of any disastrous incident.