Downed power lines pose unique road hazards, regardless of whether they’ve fallen because of a weather event or a vehicle collision.
This month, rain storms in California have resulted in some major road closures tied to downed power lines. In the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, for example, traffic was backed up for more than six hours Dec. 2 while crews dealt with energized power lines dangling dangerously close to traffic lanes.
Fallen power lines also made headlines in Texas this month. In Houston on Dec. 15, the driver of a big rig took out some power lines and telephone poles near the city’s Museum District, triggering power outages and road closures. Fortunately, the truck driver knew to stay inside the vehicle until help arrived.
What many motorists don’t understand is how life-threatening energized power lines can be when they come down.
This past July, a Los Angeles County judge sentenced a 21-year-old man from Glendale, Calif., to three years of probation and 70 days of community service because his actions behind the wheel led to the electrocution deaths of two women.
Back in August 2012, Arman Samsonian, then 19, was speeding in his SUV when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a light pole and fire hydrant. The water gushing out of the hydrant became energized after coming into contact with exposed electrical wires.
Several people rushed to Samsonian’s aid after the violent crash. Two women – Irma Zamora and Stacey Schreiber – died instantly when they stepped into the pool of water to offer help. Six other people suffered shocks but survived.
Here are some safety tips from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) you can pass along to fleet drivers as a friendly reminder:
Never, ever touch a downed power line or go near one. Power lines are not insulated like power cords. Always assume the power line is live.
- Don't touch a fallen power line or anything touching the wire.
- Don’t touch anything or anyone in contact with a fallen power line or other equipment.
- Keep children and pets away from fallen electric wires.
- Don’t drive over a fallen power line.
- Call 911 immediately to report a fallen power line.
If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line:
- Stay inside. The safest place is in your vehicle. The ground around the vehicle may be energized.
- Honk the horn, roll down your window and yell for help.
- Warn others to stay away. Anyone who touches the equipment or ground around the vehicle may be injured.
- Use your mobile phone to call 911 and wait until emergency and utility workers tell you it’s safe to exit your vehicle.
If there’s a fire and you have to exit a vehicle that has come in contact with downed power lines:
- Remove loose items of clothing.
- Keep your hands at your sides and jump clear of the vehicle, so you aren’t touching it when your feet hit the ground.
- Keep both feet close together and shuffle away from the vehicle without picking up your feet.
To watch an instructional video on the subject from Southern California Edison, click on the photo or link under the headline.