July 31, 2023

Safety Corner: Safe Driving Around Downed Power Poles & Electric Lines

Education Safety

Car accidents are a disorienting and scary experience on their own, but when an accident with a power pole occurs, it can turn an already difficult situation into a potentially deadly one. If you’re in an accident involving a power pole, it’s important to know what to do to stay safe around downed power lines. Here are some tips to remember should your car or a car near you make contact with a power pole or if you see downed power lines.

Stay In Your Vehicle

The safest place to be when your vehicle has come in contact with power lines is inside your vehicle. While it may appear a power line has become de-energized and it is safe to exit the vehicle, the only way to know for sure is if a power utility company has confirmed the line has no electricity flowing through it. If the line is energized and you exit the vehicle improperly, you can provide a path to the ground and electrocute yourself. Unless an immediate danger is present, stay put and wait for confirmation before exiting your vehicle.

How To Make An Emergency Exit

If your car isn’t safe, like in the event it is on fire, you need to follow the proper steps and safety precautions to ensure you minimize your chance of electrocution. To properly exit your vehicle, open the door while keeping your body entirely in the vehicle. Once open, you can use your door frame to assist in standing up but be sure to not touch any power lines or make contact with the ground and your car at the same time.

Graphic describing how to hop away from car that has hit a downed power pole

Once ready, cross your arms and hop with both feet together. Now on the ground, you hop to safety, at least 40 feet away from any downed power lines. The most important thing to remember is to keep your body as close together. Touching the car and the ground, separating your feet, or coming in contact with a downed line can be fatal.

Call For Help

After assessing that everything is safe, call 911. They’ll be able to get in contact with the local electrical company to get started on de-energizing the power line. Whether you’re involved in the accident or passing by, it’s important to let local authorities know so that steps can be made to ensure the situation is safe and the local utility can start assisting with the situation. Don’t assume that the authorities have been called — those in the car may be unable to call or may not know what to do. When in doubt, ask or call again!

Keep Your Distance

If you see a downed power line, stay away! It can be difficult to just sit back and wait for help, but rushing to assist could put you and others in danger. The area around the vehicle can be energized, not just the car or where you see power lines. Downed lines aren’t always like the movies — just because you don’t see sparks or fire doesn’t mean the area is safe. Warn others to stay away, keep a safe distance from downed debris, and offer help from a distance if it is needed.

Mary’s Story

When the weather is bad outside, accidents with power lines become more frequent. Whether power lines are knocked down due to heavy wind or a car slides off the road due to ice, power line accidents can be hard to avoid when the weather is bad. Mary was in an accident involving a downed power line and did everything right, which allowed her to safely leave the accident. View Mary’s full story below: