If a standard electric power cable fell down and hit a car driving along would the passengers in the car be completely insulated and protected due to the rubber tyres of the car?


What would happen to the passengers if a car was hit by a falling power line in a storm?

In: 8

If that happened, the passengers would still be safe, but not because of the tires being insulated. With high voltages, current would still go through the tires. But it wouldn’t go through a passenger because the passengers aren’t grounded; they aren’t part of the circuit. The electricity has no reason to go through them on its way through the body of the car, through the steel in the tires, and to the ground.

It’s kinda like how lightning strikes on airplanes happen all the time, but it always just passes through the skin of the airplane, usually not affecting the internals or passenger.

The tires don’t insulate from electricity. That has always been a myth / an incorrect explanation. If that were true electricity would not flow through the car at all.

What’s actually happening is the electricity is taking the path of least resistance, which is to go through the outer body of the car, through the tires, and to the ground.

In almost every scenario the passengers of a car will not be along the path of least resistance, so yes they will be safe.

If any passenger were to touch the body of the car while electricity is passing through, then there is a great chance they will be electrocuted.

Yes and no…

The occupants of the car would be protected, but not because of the tyres.

The reason they are safe is that electricity wants to take the easiest path to the ground – so when a power line or bolt of lightning strikes the top of a car, the path of least resistance will simply be flowing through the metal body of the car from top to bottom – it would be much harder for the electricity to jump from the metal car body into a person sitting inside, then from that person into the floor of the car.

The problem occurs if the occupants try to exit the car though. Because of the rubber tyres insulating the car from the ground, the electricity has to arc through the air from the metal chassis to the ground, and arcing through the air is pretty hard to do.
As someone steps out of the car, there will probably come a point where they are both touching the car, and have a foot on the ground. At this point the path of least resistance is no longer arcing from the floor of the car to the ground, but from the body of the car, through the person getting out, and from their feet into the ground. So you are safe as long as you are isolated inside the car, but move outside of that safety and you are liable to get shocked.