Catching sight of a tornado while you’re driving can be a terrifying experience. And if you think it can't happen to you, you may be wrong. According to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, tornadoes have struck in all 50 states! Knowing what to do in this situation can often mean the difference between life and death. Take a look at these quick tips.
1. Don’t Panic
When faced with the danger of an oncoming tornado, you need to stay calm and keep a level head. Panicking can cause you to make bad decisions, so take a deep breath and remember what you've learned.
2. Get Out of the Tornado’s Path if You Can
If the funnel cloud is far enough away when you first catch sight of it, consider whether you’ll be able to get out of its path. If traffic isn't backed up, travel at a 90-degree angle away from the direction the tornado is heading. In other words, if it is heading towards the east, point your vehicle south. Be sure to drive carefully, as getting into a car accident is the last thing you want to deal with as you’re trying to escape a dangerous storm.
Drive your vehicle to the nearest truck stop, grocery store, restaurant, or other solid building where you can seek shelter. Then head to the basement, an interior room without windows, or even a walk-in cooler, and stay there until the storm passes.
3. Hunker Down if You’re Too Close
Tornados can move as fast as 60 miles per hour, and driving in this type of storm is much more dangerous than simply driving in the rain. If the tornado is close when you first see it, don’t attempt to outrun it. Instead, consider whether you can safely reach a ditch or other area that is lower than the road. If you see an option nearby, exit your vehicle, get there as quickly as you can, then lay down and cover your head with your hands. Remain in this spot until the tornado has passed.
If you don’t see a safe, low place to lay, then remain in your vehicle. Keep your seatbelt on and get down as low as you can, making sure your head is below the windows. If you have a blanket in your car emergency kit, use it to cover your head.
4. Avoid Tunnels and Overpasses
It’s a common misconception that a tunnel or overpass is a safe place to ride out a tornado. However, this is actually one of the most dangerous things you can do. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), wind speeds under these structures are typically higher during a tornado and there’s also a higher chance of being hit by flying debris. In addition, leaving your vehicle to find shelter under an overpass can be more dangerous than simply remaining in your vehicle.
5. Assess Any Remaining Danger
Before your drive away, be sure to assess your surroundings and look for any additional danger. Tornados often create debris such as nails and sharp glass, and there may be power lines down. Since it’s impossible to tell whether a downed power line is live, these should always be avoided.
Also, be sure to check your vehicle. If there’s severe damage that could make it difficult to drive, call for a ride instead.
Sharpen Your Driving Skills
Knowing how to handle emergency situations when you're behind the wheel can help keep you and your passengers safe. If you want to sharpen your driving skills, consider taking an adult driver’s education course. I Drive Safely’s courses are 100% online and easy to complete on your own time, from wherever you are. Check it out today!