Safety tips for driving during electrical storms
If you're questioning how safe a vehicle is during an electrical storm, in the wake of two recent incidents in New Jersey, you're not alone.
A woman sustained minor injuries after being struck by lightning while sitting in her car in Point Pleasant Beach and in North Jersey, a woman was killed, after wires fell on her vehicle and she was electrocuted when she stepped out.
Richard Kithil, President and Founder of the National Lightning Safety Institute, based in Colorado, explained that rubber tires aren't what protects your inside a vehicle.
"It depends on the car. If it's an all metal car, the probability is that lightning is going to flow out around the outside of the metal object, as it would if it was water," said Kithil. He pointed out, "If it's a plastic car, and many cars are plastic nowadays, all bets are off, because the electricity doesn't flow around the car as it would if was metal, it can get in the interior."
Lightning can travel for hundreds of feet and even miles from cloud to ground, according to Kithil.
"So, six inches of rubber on a tire are not going to provide any insulation at all. The insulation on tires only relates to indirect strikes nearby, not direct strikes. Lightning will arch over from the metal box, represented by the car, to ground, and in most cases, people are safe inside," Kithil said.
If you do get caught during a lightning storm while driving, Kithil advises, "Safely pull off to the side of the road, turn the engine off, and sit in the car with your hands in your lap and wait for the storm to go by."
Doing something as simple as turning the radio dial can be dangerous, according to Kithil, because it's connected to the exterior antennae, which could become a circuit path for lightning.
During instances of lightning causing downed power lines on a vehicle, the car becomes charged from the steady state of electricity. To avoid becoming a conductor of electricity and being electrocuted by stepping out onto the ground, you should remain in the car until utilities crews can cut off power. If you must exit, Kithil stressed you should "jump out" rather than step out, as we normally do.
Form more tips, you can go to lightningsafety.com.