Unfortunately, the responses you’ll hear often contradict one another. Many believe that your car’s rubber tires will protect you during a storm, while others say you should look for shelter and wait it out. So, who is right and what should you know to stay safe?
What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Car?
When you’re in a fully enclosed, metal vehicle, lightning that directly strikes your car travels around the frame. This phenomenon is known as the Faraday Effect; when lightning strikes a metal cage, the current follows the metal, rather than traveling inside. As a result, the metal directs the current to the ground, so you’re theoretically safe from electrocution on the inside.
However, a car isn’t designed exactly like a cage. The current might not travel inside, but other metal components may be charged. To avoid electrocution, the National Lightning Safety Institute tells drivers that if lightning strikes, avoid touching metallic areas inside the car. These can include door handles, foot pedals, the steering column and the steering wheel.
Furthermore, as vehicle designs continue to evolve, the Faraday Effect only applies when you have a fully enclosed, metal car. Drivers tend to be more vulnerable inside a convertible because the roof isn’t metal. In this case, the electrical current follows a different path. In addition, a car’s fiberglass parts don’t offer a similar route for the current to follow.
What Happens After?
Even when electrocution is no longer a factor, lightning has serious potential to damage a car and the occupants inside. Dangers include:
- Pitting, arching or burning metal
- Electrical system issues
- Damage to the radio, cell phone charger or GPS
- A sudden shut-down and deployment of the airbags
- A fire inside the cab
As a result, staying inside your car during a lightning storm can put your safety at risk.
What can you do when you notice bolts of lightning in the distance? Even when the storm looks far away, take the following precautions:
- Pull to the side of the road, ideally in a sheltered area away from trees.
- Turn off the car’s engine
- Keep your hands in your lap
- Avoid touching the door, safety handles and gear shifts.
- Turn your hazard lights on
Unfortunately, lightning striking your car isn’t the only way your safety can become jeopardized. Rather, during a storm, lightning may strike a nearby tree, telephone pole or even a patch of asphalt. These objects can fall over or crack, creating an obstruction on the road that puts you and your occupants in danger.
As Mother Nature’s wrath shows, car accidents don’t always involve two vehicles. Storms, particularly when you’re driving far away from home in unfamiliar territory, can leave you and your passengers injured. In either instance, you’ll be left dealing with mounting medical bills, time off from work and an insurance company that doesn’t want to adequately compensate you for your pain and suffering. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, turn to the lawyers at Trantolo & Trantolo to assist with your claim. To learn more, contact us today.