Schmitt Law Firm, LLC - Kansas City personal injury attorneys

When A Snapped Power Line Lands On Your Car

We design our roads and highways with power lines running right alongside them. Every now and then, because of a storm, a fire or collision, one of these lines comes down.

The power that drives our society becomes catastrophic when we come in direct contact with it, we pay a huge price.

If you drive into a utility pole, or a power line has fallen across the roadway, the temptation is to jump out of the vehicle and get away from the sparking electrical lines.

While it is counterintuitive, the best thing to do is usually to stay put. Unless you see sparking, you won’t know if the lines are live or not.

Respect the electricity

Something that many people do not appreciate is that prolonged physical contact is not always necessary to draw a shock from a power line. Split-second brushing against a line is enough to draw a lethal charge. Metallic objects that conduct electricity can cause power to actually arc from a power line across several inches or even a foot.

This is why it is important not only to not physically touch power lines, but also to give them a wide berth.

Most power lines today are designed to shut current off when they make contact. They have de-energization capabilities like circuit reclosers built in, which limits exposure to current to an instant, as opposed to continuous connection.

Without this technology, you may be exposed to 20 to 25 times as much current – often the difference between death by electrocution and a severe burn.

Never assume

Never assume fallen lines are safe. Because cars are grounded against most shocks, you are usually safer inside your car, like a bird on a wire, than tiptoeing over a fallen line.

The best thing is to remain in your vehicle, call 911 and wait for help to arrive. Flip on your warning lights and honk the horn so approaching traffic is aware of you. Unless they arrive in a utility company vehicle, warn people to stay away from you.

There may be situations when you feel you have to leave the car. If you smell gas, that suggests a spark may cause an explosion. Simply stepping out of the car may subject you to live current. The trick is to leap from the car, with your arms folded, so no part of you touches the ground the vehicle simultaneously. This is absolutely a last resort and should not be used if you can afford to wait for help.

Rescue experts say that the best way to move if you are forced to travel near a downed power line is in a shuffle, dragging your feet or hopping, so your feet don’t move separately. The worst thing is to have one foot touching the roadway while another is in the air – the way we normally walk.

Moving in a shuffle or shuffling rhythm prevents one foot from landing in a more dangerous part of the electric ripple zone than the other.

If you witness a power line accident, do not rush in to help. Call for help and stay where you are. The worst outcome is for both you and the people you are attempting to rescue to be injured or killed.

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Ben Schmitt

Attorney Ben Schmitt

Mr. Schmitt has over 25 years of legal experience in Missouri and Kansas, and he has been first chair in over 100 jury trials in state and federal courts. He is recognized by the Kansas City Business Journal, Super Lawyers, and Martindale Hubbell as one of the best personal injury lawyers in Missouri and Kansas.