Is it Safe to Drive Through a Thunder & Lightning Storm?

We know that sometimes, you’ve got places to go and people to see, whatever the weather. Booming thunder, biblical rain and powerful lightning can’t keep you from the McDonald’s drive-through or an evening down the pub (as the designated driver, of course). But, maybe it should?

Scrap Car Comparison are on hand to explain whether or not it’s safe for you to hit the road when the weather seems to be turning apocalyptic.

Lightning strikes behind a hill which a road is curving around

Is a Car Safe in a Thunderstorm?

In one sense, yes. In another… not so much. A car is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm, because your vehicle is unlikely to suffer any damage from the storm directly. Thunder is just noise, and we’ll get onto the effects of lighting on a car later on.

The real dangers come from the environment around you, which is quite likely to suffer as a result of Mother Nature’s wrath. Thunder & lightning storms regularly cause damage to trees and other tall structures, natural or manmade. Of course, it’s not unheard of for a particularly nasty storm to damage houses and send roof tiles (or worse, whole sections of brickwork) tumbling down to the road below. In this sense, being in a car during a thunder & lightning storm may put you in danger.

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Can Cars Be Struck By Lightning?

Cars are big, metal objects that are often out in the open and isolated. If you were to walk down the same road holding something like a golf club above your head, you wouldn’t question whether or not you could suffer a lightning strike. So why would cars be any different?

Yes, cars can be struck by lightning, but that doesn’t mean it’s lights out for yourself or anyone else inside the vehicle. Read on to find out why…

Would You Be Hurt if Your Car Was Struck by Lightning?

“No,” I hear you all cry out, “because the tyres are made of rubber, so you’re insulated and safe!”

And you’d only be partly right. You can indeed be struck by lightning whilst you’re sitting inside your car, and you are mostly protected from the devastating effects of a lightning strike. But, this idea that a few inches of rubber is going to protect you from 300 million volts of electricity is nothing more than a myth.

The real reason is because the car acts like a Faraday Cage. Essentially, a Faraday Cage protects whatever is inside from harm by allowing the lightning to pass around them, rather than through them. So, in relation to your car, the metal framework that you’re encased in will be heavily electrified, but you will be fine on the inside.

Unless, that is, you touch anything connected directly to the metal frame of your car. If you must drive through lightning, make sure you keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

Does Car Insurance Cover Storm Damage?

Once again, the answer here isn’t so straightforward. It’s more of a “yes, but-” because you’re only covered and able to make a claim if you have ‘fully comprehensive’ coverage. ‘Third-party, fire or theft’ insurance policies won’t cover what are known as “acts of God”.

If your car is damaged as a result of a storm, inspect it as soon as it’s safe to do so and take plenty of photographs to document the damage and what happened. Like, for example, if there’s now a tree wedged in the roof.

Swinton Insurance have put together a list of the stormy weather events that are most likely to lead to damage and a chat with your insurer:

  • Engine Damage: Often caused by flood water. If your car is parked up and caught in a flash flood, your engine could be in trouble. But, if you were driving and decided to risk a shortcut home through a newly-formed river, your insurer might refuse to pay out.
  • Damaged Electrics: Again, flood water can wreak havoc on cars, particularly on the internal electrical systems.
  • Damage to Vehicle Contents: This refers to your personal property within the vehicle. If you’ve left your laptop or a few shopping bags of new clothes in the car, storm damage could see them needing replacing. This should be covered under the ‘personal effects’ part of your policy, but you may have a separate excess to pay.
  • Falling Trees: If a tree falls on your car, your comprehensive policy should cover you. Or, if a tree from someone else’s property damages your car, you may be able to claim through their home insurance. However, be warned; If a tree from your own property falls on your car, and it’s diseased or dead, the claim could be disputed.
  • Damaged Bodywork or Windows: If your car has minor damage to its bodywork or windows, perhaps through extreme hail, this should be covered by a comprehensive policy.
  • Crashes Caused by Snow or Ice: This is more of a winter-specific problem, and you should stay off the road if possible. If you must drive and do have an accident, your comprehensive cover should have you protected financially.
  • Parked Car Hit by Another Vehicle: If somebody hits your car while it’s parked up outside, you should try to identify the offender as you could claim on their insurance. Hopefully, they’ll have left a note for you, but if not, report the incident to the police first and your insurer second.

Tips For Driving Safely in a Thunderstorm

Life doesn’t grind to a halt during bad weather (unless you plan to use British public transport, that is) so if you are planning to head out during a thunderstorm, here are some important tips to follow to ensure car safety in a thunderstorm. 

  • Reduce your speed: The DVLA recommends giving the car in front of you twice as much space in heavy rain, and three times as much room when there’s ice on the ground. In general, reducing speed will afford you more control over the car and more time to react if something does happen.
  • Prep your car: Make sure that everything is in working order. Tyre pressure and tread, windscreen wipers, brakes. Don’t leave home without knowing for sure that your car is safe.
  • Prep yourself: Prepare for the worst, then whatever happens will be better than expected. Take a ‘survival kit’ with food and water, a blanket and maybe even a paper map, just in case.
  • Don’t do anything stupid: If a road looks like it’s flooding, or if there’s debris about already, don’t attempt to use it. Find an alternative route.

If your car was left at the mercy of a storm and came out worse for wear, you might want to look at selling it for scrap or salvage. Scrap Car Comparison can find you the best price in just 30 seconds and our network of buyers can collect your car from anywhere in the country, free of charge. Find your nearest buyer and sell your car for scrap or salvage today!

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