Stay in the car!

On a late wintry Saturday afternoon, Nick and Blake decided to take Nick’s car to a movie — despite falling snow and parental advice to stay home.

Moments later, where the county road zigged and zagged a mile past their neighborhood, Nick’s car did neither. It slid straight off and bumped into an electric cooperative utility pole. The car’s air bags exploded, but both teens were unhurt. Then, they did something that could have turned this property damage accident into a multiple fatality: they stepped out of the car.

“Stay in the car, stay in the car, stay in the car!” is the mantra NineStar Connect wants drivers to remember.

“When a power line is involved, even a minor accident can become tragic,” said Tommy Nance, Director of Electric Operations at NineStar Connect. “It cannot be stressed enough that staying inside the vehicle, and warning passersby to stay away, too, is the safest route. Only after a first responder arrives on scene and says it’s OK, should you get out.”

However, staying inside the vehicle may go against a driver’s first inclination. You want to get out and check the car. But stepping out of the car immediately after striking a utility pole may KILL YOU. Here’s why:

  • Power lines can fall. When a pole is struck, power lines can fall, and hardware can break loose from its insulated perches atop the pole.
  • Fallen power lines can still be energized. Even touching the ground, power lines can still be carrying 7,200 volts or more. They may not spark or buzz.
  • Fallen power lines are hard to see. Silhouetted against the sky or glistening in sunlight atop poles, power lines may seem easy to see. But when knocked down and twisted with tall grass or trees as a background, especially at night, power lines are almost impossible to see.
  • Electricity seeks the quickest path to ground. If you get out of the car and touch a live power line and the ground, you become that path. That amount of electricity passing through you can kill you instantly.
  • If you are alive, you are safe. It’s not easy to know if power lines have broken loose and are on your car. But if you are alive, you are not that deadly “path to ground.” If you were in that path, you’d already be dead.
  • Call 9-1-1. After hitting a pole, call 9-1-1. Tell them you hit a pole. And wait patiently. Tell passersby to stay back. Wait till you know it’s safe before exiting.
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