Prom and graduation Season Safe Driving Tips


Does your teen know what to do in a collision with a utility pole?

Electric cooperatives’ top priority is to provide safe, reliable, and affordable energy to their members. Member well-being and concern for community are always top-of-mind.

May brings not only spring storms and potentially severe weather, but it also heralds the beginning of the celebration season for many high school students. Proms, graduation parties, and other social gatherings peak during this time of year.

While we naturally focus on the sunny aspects this season brings, we also sometimes hear about preventable tragedies involving young people and car accidents.

Does your teen know what to do in the event of a collision with a utility pole resulting in a downed power line? Do your loved ones know what to do if they come upon an accident with a downed power line? Here are some safety tips that could save a life.

Life-Saving Tips

While driving in 2009, two Indiana teenagers, Ashley Taylor and Lee Whitaker, collided with a utility pole. With the vehicle on its side and power lines down, the teens did not know the lines were energized with electricity. Fortunately, just days earlier, they saw a presentation about electrical safety at their school and knew to stay in the car in that situation. The information in that school presentation prevented tragedy.

If a car collides with a utility pole, the vehicle may be charged with electricity. Anyone exiting the car could come in contact with thousands of volts from the downed line. When you step out of the car, you become part of the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted. It’s critical to stay in the vehicle and tell others to do the same until emergency crews have told you it’s safe to exit the car. If the vehicle is on fire or you must exit for other safety reasons, jump clear of the vehicle. Do not let any part of your body or clothing touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away (in small steps with your feet still together) to avoid electric shock. Keep moving away until you are at least 40 feet from the vehicle. Like ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source. Stepping between one voltage level and another allows the body to become a path for that electricity.

If you come upon a car accident involving a utility pole and downed power lines, keep your distance. A downed power line can energize the ground up to 35 feet away. While your natural instinct may be to rush to the car to help, instead pause. Do not approach the car or scene of the accident. Tell others to stay away. While you may be concerned about injuries to those involved, the best action you can take is to alert emergency officials, who will in turn coordinate with the power provider. For the same reasons described above, never drive over a downed power line or through water that is touching a downed power line.

May is Electrical Safety Month

May is a time when we are more mindful of safety because it is Electrical Safety Month. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, thousands of people in the United States are critically injured or electrocuted as a result of electrical fires or accidents in their own homes. Many of these accidents are preventable.

We know firsthand how dangerous electricity is because Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives work with it all day, every day. Safety is more than a catchphrase. It is our duty and responsibility to keep co-op employees safe and to help keep our communities safe.—Dana Kelroy, with Safe Electricity and Anne Prince, NRECA