lightning storm

Lightening storms result in dozens of fatalities each year, but do you know how to protect yourself from a lightning strike while you’re on the road?

With summer heat and humidity, thunderstorms are often part of nature’s landscape this time of year, bringing an increased risk of severe injury and death from a lightning strike. While it is a rare occurrence, being struck by lightning while driving or riding in a vehicle does happen. More often, drivers who are caught on the road in a lightning storm are tense and distracted by what is going on around them. Giving them some tips on how to handle the situation can keep them safe, and focused.

 

Tips To Protect Yourself From Lightning And Remain Calm

According to the National Weather Service July is the peak month for Lightning fatalities, so it is a good time to review. Information offered by the National Weather Service and the National Lightning Safety Institute can help you remain calm, and protect you from lightning in a severe storm. We’ve summarized this in the following tips:

 

BE PREPARED

  • Monitor your local weather forecast. Check for alerts from the National Weather Service and avoid driving if a warning for a severe thunderstorm is issued. Stay inside a building — if possible — until the alert is over and do not drive until at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
  • Look and listen. Be aware of the sound of thunder and keep an eye out to see if the skies begin to darken. Flashes of light and stronger winds are also indicators of a storm, in which case it may be best to get off the road and find safety, ideally in a building, until the storm passes.
  • Know your car. A vehicle with a solid metal body is safer than a convertible or one with fiberglass shells. When electricity hits a metal car, the energy disperses throughout the vehicle body, similar to a Faraday Cage, and into the ground without causing serious injury. School buses are a good example of a Faraday Cage. Heavy equipment like bulldozers, loaders and backhoes with enclosed rollover protection systems canopy (ROPS) can be a safe vehicle to remain in during nearby electrical storms. You should not operate the equipment during the storm. Smaller equipment without a ROPS are unsafe, and you should seek other shelter for a storm.

 

RIDING OUT THE STORM

  • Pull over. If you find yourself in an area affected by lightning, pull over to a safe location, close your windows, turn your vehicle off and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Stop in a safe area. Avoid lower ground and pools of water, in case of flooding. Very high ground should also be avoided, especially if there are single standing trees or telephone poles since they can conduct lightning and increase your danger of being struck as a consequence.
  • Stay inside your vehicle. If you cannot be inside of a building for safety, remaining in your car is your next best bet. Do not leave your vehicle to take photos or videos of the storm. A hard-top car with the windows completely shut is the best prevention of lightning strikes snaking inside the vehicle.
  • Avoid touching any metal or electronics. This includes your phone and the car stereo. Metals and electronics are conductive surfaces. It is recommended that you fold your hands and keep them in your lap to ensure you are not touching anything that can conduct electricity.

 

Usually, after lightning strikes your vehicle, it is safe to exit, since the charge—if you are driving a metal hard-top vehicle—has dispersed into the ground. However, it is recommended that drivers wait until the storm passes, to not risk lightning striking the same place twice — which, contrary to conventional wisdom, can happen.

 

If the Worst Happens

In the event one of your passengers is struck by lightning, stay calm and call 911 immediately. If the person has stopped breathing, perform CPR until he or she begins breathing again, or until medical help arrives.  Once a person is struck by lightning, the electric energy will disperse through their body and they are safe to touch and render first aid to until medical personnel arrive.

If your vehicle is struck by lightning, damage can range from nearly nothing to a total loss.  Even if your vehicle appears to not have sustained damage, it is best to contact your accident management provider to report the incident.  They can arrange to have the vehicle examined for damages that may be hidden.

 

While it may be a one-in-a-million chance to get struck by lightning while driving, taking the above precautions will help keep your mind on your driving, and protect you from lightning while out on the road.

Drive Safely!

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