Instincts tell us to flee danger. Unfortunately, in vehicle accidents that bring down power lines, these natural inclinations can lead to tragic results.
Northern Plains Electric wants everyone to know: If your car hits a power pole, or otherwise brings a power line down, stay in your vehicle and wait until we, or the local electric utility arrives on the scene and ensures that lines have been de-energized. If you come upon or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the scene.
Indiana teenagers Lee Whittaker and Ashley Taylor saw a power line safety demonstration at their high school and never dreamed their new knowledge would be put to the test. Five days later, they and two classmates were in a car that crashed into a utility pole, bringing live power lines to the ground.
Fortunately, they heeded the safety advice they’d received, and survived because they knew the right actions to take. And they helped others who approached the scene by warning them to stay away.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, tens of thousands of accidents each year occur where power poles are struck by cars or large equipment. Each one of these accidents has the potential to bring down power lines. Surviving the accident itself might not be enough to stay alive without awareness of the right moves to make.
In the vast majority of those incidents, the safest place to remain is inside the car. Only in the rare instance of fire should people exit a vehicle. Then, they must know how to do so safely, jumping free and clear, landing with feet together, and hopping away. It’s difficult to get out without creating a path for current to flow, which is why one should get out only if forced to.
“When people are involved in a car accident, electricity is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind,” Safe Electricity Executive Director Molly Hall notes. “We’re often more concerned about whether anyone was injured, or how badly the vehicle is damaged. We forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re risking bodily exposure to thousands of volts of electricity from downed power lines.”
Lee and Ashley are grateful to White County Rural Electric Membership Corporation, the Safe Electricity partner electric cooperative that sponsored a Live Line Demo program at their school. The students are encouraging everyone to learn from their experience.
To learn more, watch the video on www.SafeElectricity.org. Visitors can also check out a live power line demonstration, just like the one the Indiana teens saw at their school.
EDITORIAL NOTE: This article was provided by Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and www.SafeElectricity.org, in observance of National Electrical Safety Month.