For many, New Year's means an extra day off work and meeting up with friends and family. It is also means more travel time on America's roads. Safe Electricity encourages those taking to the road next week to take extra care and make sure they know what to do if they should find themselves in an auto accident with power lines.
According to the National Safety Council, on average the number of traffic deaths during a holiday period rises.
"Car accidents are scary experiences," says John Lowrey, advisory board member of the Safe Electricity program. "After the trauma of a car accident, your first instinct may be to leave the car. Safe Electricity wants to remind people that if you are involved in an accident with power poles or power lines, the safest place after an accident is actually inside the car."
Last spring, Mathew Emery's pickup truck crashed into a utility pole in rural Illinois. A 34,500-volt transmission line was on top of his truck, and a 7,200-volt distribution line was suspended about 3 feet above the ground just outside his door. He stayed safe by staying in his vehicle until utility crews did their work.
In 2009, two Indiana teenagers, Ashley Taylor and Lee Whitaker, also experienced firsthand the importance of staying in the car after an accident with a power pole. Knowing what to do saved their lives when they were involved in such an accident just a few days after they saw a presentation about electrical safety at school. They knew to stay in the car and warned those who approached to stay away.
Power equipment can be damaged, or come down after an accident. If you leave your car, you are stepping into danger. Power lines carry high voltage electricity. After an accident, your car and the surrounding area can become energized. Even if you do not touch lines or equipment, you can still be killed or seriously injured. Electricity looks for a path to the ground. If electricity uses you as the path to ground, you could receive a severe, possibly fatal shock.
After an accident, stay in the car, and tell others to do the same. Call emergency and utility services. Do not leave your vehicle until a utility professional has told you it is safe to do so. If a good Samaritan tries to approach the accident, warn them to stay away.
"The only reason you should exit the vehicle is in the rare event it's on fire," explains Lowrey. "If this is the case, jump free of the vehicle with your feet together, and hop away with your feet together as far as you can. A difference in voltage between your two feet can cause electrocution."
Watch Lee and Ashley's story and learn more about electrical safety at SafeElectricity.org.