When involved in an auto accident, our first reaction is to get out of the vehicle. However, when accidents involve power lines, it is best to stay inside the vehicle and wait for help. Since you can't tell by looking at a power line whether or not it is energized, it is best to lean toward the side of caution. If not, stepping outside the vehicle can lead to tragic results. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative shares the following information on what to do when automobile accidents involve power lines.
If your vehicle hits a power pole or brings down a power line, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Call 911 or honk your horn to alert bystanders. Warn them to keep away from the vehicle, but ask them to call 911 and the local electric utility immediately.
If you must get out of the car because of fire or other danger, tuck your arms and jump clear of the vehicle so no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then hop or shuffle away, keeping feet together and in contact with the ground. Electricity spreads through the ground in ripples, like a stone dropped in water. The voltage is highest closest to the vehicle and decreases with distance. Keeping feet together by hopping or shuffling helps prevent one foot from landing in a higher voltage zone than another. You never want your feet in two voltage zones, because the difference in voltage is what will hurt you.
Even if a power line has landed on the ground away from your vehicle, the area near your car can be energized. Stay safe in your vehicle unless there’s fire or imminent risk of fire. It’s best to wait for the local electric utility crew to arrive and make sure the power is off.
If you witness an accident involving utility poles and power lines, DO NOT approach the accident scene. Stay in your car and call for help. Although our first reaction is often to lend a hand and help those in need, a wrong move when power lines are involved could cause you to be injured as well. The best course of action is to call 911 for help and stay clear of the scene.
The same rules apply to situations involving farm and construction equipment. If it comes in contact with overhead power lines, stay in the cab and warn others to stay away until the power line is de-energized. In each of these situations just remember one thing: Tell everyone to stay away.