You have almost certainly heard that the best place for you to be in a lightning storm is in your car, but is that really true? Not necessarily. Of course there are worse places to be, like a golf course, or under a big old tree, but is your car really safe? You might think so, but it is not necessarily true.

Probably the reason you think you are safe in your car is that you have been told that the rubber in your tires will protect you from a lightning strike. The truth, though, is that lighting does not go down into your tires and protect you. It actually travels around the outside of your car, and then goes into the ground underneath it, and that is how you are protected. The problem is that not all cars are created equally. Here is why:

  • Do you love your convertible? Good. But it does not have a metal roof. The lightning won’t travel around the car and go into the ground – more likely, it will hit you.

  • Many cars today are made out of fiberglass, not metal – and electricity will not flow through fiberglass.

  • Lightning can flow through your car’s electrical system, including your radio, GPS or cell phone charger.

  • Lightning loves metal – steering columns, door handles, steering wheels and foot pedals.

So, lightning loves your car. And that means, bottom line, although you are safest in a metal-roofed vehicle in a lightning storm, you can still end up being hurt. Your tires will not protect you. So, if you are driving in a lightning storm, pull over. Do not use your radio. Do not talk on your cell phone – trust us, this is one time when even ET will not phone home, because phoning home could get ET fried.

Pull over. Turn off your engine. Turn off your hazard lights. And wait. Once the storm has passed, you can resume driving. And if the worst happens, and your car is hit by lightning, make sure that you wait until you are absolutely certain that the electrical current has moved through your vehicle and gone into the ground. How do you know when that has happened? Realistically, if you’re still in the middle of the storm, you don’t know, so wait until the storm is over. That is the only time that you can be sure it is safe to either continue driving, or get out of your vehicle.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is It Safe to Drive During Lightning? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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