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Ask an Expert: Downed Power Line Safety

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

What do I do if a downed power line touches my vehicle?

Photo of a downed tree and power line on the road with cars around
Assume every downed power line is energized.

If a power line touches your car as a result of an accident while you are inside, don't get out. If possible, drive the vehicle away from the power line. There is no way of knowing whether or not a downed power line has been de-energized, so it's best to remain inside your vehicle until the local energy company advises you that it is safe to exit the vehicle.

Use your cell phone to call for help or sound your horn to signal to others that you are in danger. If someone approaches trying to help, warn them to stay clear of the area and ask them to call the local energy company and emergency personnel. Even reaching out while inside the car and touching a conductive pole or metal door outside the car could cause an electric shock.

It is not only the tires that protect you, but also the metal surrounding you. This is due to the “skin effect” or "Faraday cage effect," which means that electricity will travel only on the surface of enclosed metal objects. So, while your vehicle may be electrified, you're safe as long as you stay inside.

If the risk of a fire forces you out of your vehicle, remove all loose clothing and other items and, with both feet together, jump away from the vehicle making sure that no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Land with both feet as close together as possible, then shuffle (your feet in contact with each other and the ground at all times) as far away from the vehicle as you can.


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