Years ago while I was driving down the road I noticed a bunch of police cars, ambulances and utility company vehicles parked around a car that had run off the road and crashed into a power line pole. As we were directed away from the crash by one of the police officers, I noticed that the car had live wires laying on top of the car. There was a utility repairman standing roughly 20-30 yards away from the crash site and he was shouting directions to the driver who was still in the car. I don’t know what ever happened to the driver nor the passengers that were in the car, but I do know that would be a scary situation to be in.
Crashing into a power line pole is not the only way to have a power line fall onto your car. For example: Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, explosions, and wind storms that result in a falling branch from a tree that severs the power line could also put you in the same predicament.
What should you do in this situation? What should you do if the car is on fire and you need to escape the burning car but the wires are still on the car? What if you aren’t alone and have kids or friends in the car? Live wires and exploding cars seems like an everyday occurrence in the movies but in real life- what is the best way to stay safe?
Live Wires on Your Car
Should you ever find yourself in a situation where a live wire is on your car it is extremely important that you do the following:
- Don’t Panic: Remain calm and breathe. You will be safe in the car as long as you do not touch the frame of the car or any other metal part of the interior part of the car that connects with the cars frame as you could be electrified.
Breathe and relax. You will need to have a clear head to be able to communicate with the rescue team when they come to help.
- Stay in the Car: You may be tempted to open the door and run to safety. However, this is the last thing you should do. Never attempt to leave the car unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. If live wires are touching the car frame and you get out of the vehicle, you are at risk of being electrocuted.
The voltage from the powerline wires are more than powerful enough to cause death. In fact, linemen and utility workers are considered to have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country with 50-100 deaths occurring each year.
- Warn Others and Call 911: Others may attempt to come to your aid and may not see the live wires or may not know just how dangerous it is to approach the car. Wave your arms and shout to warn them of the dangers and not to approach the car. Have a bystander call 911. If no one is around, then call 911 yourself.
- Drive Away from the wires: Depending on the situation, the utility worker or police officer may have you slowly drive away from the wires and to safety. However, only attempt this if you are directed to do so by first responders as they will have a clear view of the whole situation and will know if it is safe to do so.
- Leaving the Car: As noted above, you should never leave the car unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. For example, if the car is on fire and could kill you, then it is time to “jump ship” or rather jump from the car, to avoid being burned.
When deciding whether you should exit the car or not, remember, the only time to leave the car is if the threat of not leaving is greater than the risk of staying. I believe it is fair to say that if you need to hit the restroom really really bad, you should still stay in the car.
If it is decided that you need to leave the car, follow these tips.
- Identify where the wires are and exit out the door that is farthest from the wires.
- Stand at the door way (**DO NOT TOUCH THE METAL FRAME OF YOUR CAR)
- Jump out of the car, ensure that at no point are you touching the car and the ground at the same time! This is extremely important.
- Land with your feet together, side by side, to minimize the chances that you land on a part of the ground that may be electrified.
–Kids: It sounds bad, but If you have kids with you, it is best to throw them to a bystander or as far away from the car as you can. * It’s easier to treat bruises or broken bones than getting a lethal dose of electricity!
–Babies: Hold your babies in your arms as you jump away from the car.
- After jumping out of the car, hop away from the car – Don’t walk!
Being in a situation where you and your family are at risk of electrocution can be extremely stressful and scary! Try to relax and listen to directions from the first responders to escape the situations safely. If necessary, follow the steps outlined above to exit the vehicle safely.