Is it Safe to be in a Car During a Thunderstorm?

Is it safe to be in a car during a thunderstorm

Last updated on April 11th, 2023 at 07:19 pm

Thunderstorms occur in many places throughout the year, but no one is ever fully prepared to handle it. It may catch you unawares when out driving, and you may not be so sure if your car is a safe shelter under the storm. 

Cars offer some protection during a thunderstorm. Firstly, hard-topped cars feature a faradic cage that is capable of carrying the electricity from lightning evenly to the ground. The metal cage also protects the people inside from most of the elements including strong winds and heavy rainfall.

This is just a preview. This article explains how a car protects its occupants, among other tips to stay safe during a thunderstorm. 

Is it safe to be in a car during a thunderstorm? 

Is it safe to be in a car during a thunderstorm

When a thunderstorm strikes, you have one of two options to get to safety; a solid building or a car. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the car’s rubber tires that protect the occupants from lightning strikes. That is a common myth that has long been falsified. Lightning bolts tend to be so hot and powerful that they could melt the tires. This explains why some people have lost their lives to lightning when riding on bicycles or motorcycles. 

The metal cage of your car, being a good conductor of electricity, conducts the lightning charge, directing it safely through the vehicle to the ground, protecting its occupants. However, this is only applicable to cars with hard-topped metal roofs. Others such as convertibles cannot offer such protection. 

While inside the car, it is important to avoid touching any metal objects. If you were still driving and a storm suddenly appears, do not pull off the road. Do not let your hands roam about, sit calmly until it passes. 

How to stay safe in a car during a thunderstorm

If you are out driving and a storm strikes, you are safe in the car. However, the car should have a complete metal shield for optimum protection. Cars with fiberglass bodies are not completely safe. The concept of a Faraday cage involves a metal or a conductor for it to conduct the electrical charges from lightning. Fiberglass acts as an insulator and thus, offers no protection against lightning. 

The occupant should avoid touching anything inside the car. This includes window handles, door handles, radio dials, steering wheels, and anything that is connected to the outside.

If you see a storm coming, it would be best to pull over, and turn off the engine and wait until the storm passes. You can keep your hazard lights on for others to see your vehicle. 

Another important tip is to remain calm throughout. Storms come and go. If you are stuck in one, stay calm and patient, it will pass eventually. 

Tips to stay safe in a thunderstorm 

Plan ahead 

Planning ahead is important. It is one way to ensure you are always out of harm’s way in the event of a thunderstorm. You can do so by keeping tabs on weather forecasts. This way, you can ensure you find safe shelter in advance in case the conditions change. 

Time is of the essence 

Often, when storms appear, the weather changes drastically. People do not get enough time to plan their next course of action. The first sign of a thunderstorm is usually thunder, which indicates the beginning of the harsh conditions.

Upon hearing thunder, it would be best to cancel/postpone all outdoor activities and seek for shelter as fast as possible. Lightning can strike to a distance of 15 miles even before the thunderstorm starts. If you are still looking for shelter at this point, you are putting your life in danger. 

Once inside, stay inside

During the storm, and 30 minutes after the storm, ensure you stay inside the shelter, be it a building or car. When last thunder roars, sit inside for 30 or so minutes before you can leave. Lightning can still strike behind a storm. 

Keep off plugged-in objects

Stay away from corded phones, showers, or a plugged-in computer until it cools down. Any appliance that is plugged into a wall outlet or is attached to plumbing is a potential hazard. The electric charges from a lightning bolt can travel through plumbing or the wiring and ultimately injure the one handling it.  

FAQs

No, it is not safe to drive in a thunderstorm. Firstly, any contact with the steering wheel is dangerous especially when lightning strikes. Another thing is, that the heavy rainfall characterized by most thunderstorms hinders visibility and makes the road slippery. These are dangerous conditions to be driving in and could result in an accident. 

Yes, a car forms what is referred to as a Faraday cage that shields its occupants from lightning. It conducts the charges through the vehicle and safely to the ground. 

Final Thought

Hard-topped cars offer adequate protection in the event of a thunderstorm. Therefore, if you are unsure whether to stay in your car or leave, cars offer better protection than other shelters. Keep in mind the tips above to avoid any injuries.