Earthquakes can be devastating natural disasters that cause damage and destruction. They can strike suddenly and without warning and can happen anywhere. And while the ground may shake, and buildings may sway, what about your car? Is a car safe during an earthquake?
According to this report, Americans drive about 25 miles and spend an average of one hour behind the wheel every day. In many cases, this means that they may be on the road when an earthquake strikes. Though car manufacturers are designing vehicles to withstand earthquakes, it is still crucial for drivers to know what to do in the event of an earthquake while driving.
How Long Does It Take For An Earthquake To Occur?
Because there are so many different fault lines and earthquakes, the times associated with these events vary. A small earthquake can occur while a larger one is still in progress, and earthquakes can occur close together or far apart. In addition, the tectonic plates shift at different speeds and in various directions. The more you know about tectonics, the more you can understand how long it takes for an earthquake to occur.
They may occur within seconds, minutes, hours, or days after the earthquake, but they decrease in number and size over time. The greatest danger from such a quake is that it may be strong enough to trigger another earthquake on the nearby major fault segments.
In general, most earthquakes happen along a single fault line, but not always. Sometimes, two or more faults move simultaneously, causing multiple earthquakes to occur in a short period. It is also possible for an earthquake to start on one fault and move to another before the first one ends.
What Happens To Your Car During An Earthquake?
The first thing that happens is that the earth starts to shake and move beneath your tires. The rubber tires will absorb some of the shocks, but it can rip right through them if the quake is strong enough.
If the shock wave is strong enough, it can cause the vehicle to become airborne, either flipping over or rolling over several times before landing back on its wheels. If other cars are around, they can easily run into your car as they try to adjust to the shaking ground.
Additionally, if you're in a parking garage or a multi-level parking lot and the concrete supports give way, your car might be crushed between other cars or by a falling concrete slab.
Safety Tips for Drivers in an Earthquake
A common myth about earthquakes is that they can suck the ground out from under your feet, causing all sorts of terrifying scenarios for people in cars. This is not technically true: The shaking caused by an earthquake does not suck the ground out from under you, but it does cause roadways to lose stability and shift around.
The basic rule of thumb is to get out of a car. In most cases, it's safer to be out of the car than in it during an earthquake. Pullover and stop as soon as possible. You are at significant risk of being involved in an accident if you try to continue driving because other drivers will be pulled over on the side of the road or trying to navigate around debris. The greatest threat to your safety is other vehicles.
However, there are a few exceptions to this:
If you're in a multi-story parking garage: The car will sway with the building, which could lead to the structure collapsing. If you're on a bridge during an earthquake, it's best to get out of the car and walk quickly to the nearest exit. The same goes for tunnels and overpasses, and don't drive through them during an earthquake. Instead, park your car somewhere safe and wait for the shaking to stop.
If you're on open ground: There are mixed opinions about whether it's better to be in your car or outside it during an earthquake. Being in a vehicle is like being in a very small room—with just enough space to move around inside. Meanwhile, you can't see what's happening around you while inside the car, which could leave you vulnerable if something were to fall onto the vehicle.
If you are on a freeway and the surface is paved, your best bet is to stay in your car. The structures above you can collapse, but you probably will not be damaged by falling debris if you're in a standard passenger car. Your car also provides some protection from other cars crashing into each other or you as people try to avoid collisions or swerve to miss fallen debris. Take care to stop your car without hitting the vehicles ahead of you and then wait for the shaking to stop before proceeding.
If you are on an elevated road of any kind or near a tall structure like a bridge or overpass: Get out of your car and move away from the structure as far as possible (at least 100 feet). Bridges and overpasses can fall during an earthquake, so don't wait around for yours to do so.
Always Be ClimaGuard Ready!
Check your vehicle for damage once the earthquake stops and aftershocks are over. Look for broken glass or scratches caused by flying debris, and check for dents and scratches on both sides of the vehicle. If you were near a lake or a river when the earthquake struck, there could be water damage to your engine.
Checking for personal and property damage is just as important as checking for injuries from falling objects or becoming pinned under items. If you think your vehicle sustained any damages, take it to a mechanic or call your insurance company.
The bottom line is that vehicles are not built to withstand earthquakes. Be prepared for a natural disaster of any kind in the area you live. Always be ClimaGuard ready! Visit our website to know more car safety tips.