Common Myths About Driving in Dangerous Weather

Myth #4: You Can Drive Through a Flooded Roadway

After winter snows, drivers have to deal with April showers. So, if torrential rains flood the roads, don't buy into the myth that you can drive right through, even if you think it's just a puddle. Fix warned, "if it's flooded roadways from a river, a creek, or a lake, you do not want to drive through it because anything that's even a foot deep of water, which is not much at all, can cause your vehicle to float."

Champion's advice to drivers is to "slow down and make a good solid judgment about where the water's coming from, how much water do I think it is before I pursue."

Myth #5: Your Car Provides Protection From Lightning

Those April showers also bring something else ... lightning, and the myth people continue to believe, no matter what they've been told: you're safe in your car if you get struck by lightning because of the rubber in the tires.

Fix said that people believe the rubber in their tires acts as an insulator that will keep them safe from the lightning. But in reality, he said, "if you get struck by lightning, it will travel down to the ground and stop itself. But you will hear a loud bang inside the car, and it's very scary."

The popular British TV show "Top Gear" put this myth to the test with host Richard Hammond as the guinea pig.

"They're going to zap me and this car with 800,000 volts," Hammond said to the cameras during the demonstration. "You might think the tires are going to protect me, by insulating the car from Earth because they're rubber."

Inside the car, he waited and then suddenly, Hammond said, "I'm being hit by lightning!"

He quickly realized, "now it's doing stuff to the car, got error message up on the dashboard."

After the ordeal, Hammond was thankful, yet amazed, to say, "I'm alive."

It wasn't the tires that kept Hammond safe. As this experiment proved, the one thing that will protect you from a lightning strike is your car's metal frame, because the electricity travels around the passenger compartment and down to the ground.

But what happened to the car?

To Hammond's surprise, "it starts, it still works, amazing."

But not everyone is so lucky.

"My poor little car was totaled," said Wendy Allen, a graduate student at the University of Florida, who was struck by lightning as she drove on a rural Mississippi highway a few years ago.

"It was raining very heavily, it was thundering and lightning, and I just saw bright light," she said. "Intense light filled up my car for just a split second. But it was a deafening bang."

Her car antenna was destroyed because that's where the lightning hit, and a tiny scorch mark on the trunk showed where the lightning exited after it fried the car's electrical system. It wasn't the car's rubber tires that protected Allen. It's because she wasn't touching anything metal in the car.

And that, Fix said, is the best advice if you get caught in your car in a thunder storm.

"In the vehicle, there's a lot of plastic and a lot of non-metal components," he said. "Best thing is don't touch anything metal. Keep your hands ... to yourself. Pull over and park in a safe place, if you can. It's absolutely safer to stay in the car than get out of the car."

At the end of the day, Allen admitted, "there is not a doubt in my mind that I'm incredibly lucky to be alive today. My car saved my life."

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