If you’re driving down the street and start to feel the car tremble and shake, you might look around and notice that it’s not just your car, but the trees and buildings around you, too. You realize you are experiencing an earthquake while driving. While not all drivers live in a state where earthquakes occur, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
earthquakes can happen in several states, including Alaska, Oklahoma, California, Nevada, Wyoming, and Kansas, among others.
During an earthquake, at best the ground will shake a little before stopping. At worst, bridges and buildings can collapse, roads can crack open. Also, if you are by the coast, be aware of possible tsunami warnings.
Should you be driving when the ground starts to shake, do you know how to drive safely? In this article, Part 1 covers pulling over as the safest option, Part 2 shares what happens if you cannot pull over, Part 3 discusses how to drive safely after an earthquake, and Part 4 details proper insurance coverage for those who drive in states with earthquakes.
Part 1 of 4: The safest thing to do is pull over
If you notice an earthquake while driving, the absolute best thing you can do is pull over in a safe place and wait for the shaking to stop. Drive slowly until you find a safe place. When you pull over, be aware of anything that may be able to fall on your car, such as power lines, trees, or tall fences. The best place to park is away from any possible falling debris.
In addition, make sure you are on solid ground. Bridges or highway overpasses can collapse during a strong earthquake, so if you find yourself traveling across a bridge when an earthquake strikes, safely make your way across before stopping. If you are on a highway far from an exit, pull over to the shoulder and check that you are not stopped over an expansion joint, as these may fail.
Once stopped, turn off your engine and put on your hazard lights to warn other drivers that your vehicle is stopped. Apply your emergency break to help keep your car from moving once stopped. Stay in your vehicle once you park and place your arms over your head until the earthquake is completely over.
Part 2 of 4: What to do if you can’t pull over
If you are in a situation where it is not safe to pull over, or stopping your vehicle may place you in further danger, proceed with extreme caution. The goal of continuing to drive should be to find a safe place to stop. Do not continue to drive to your destination until the earthquake has completely stopped.
Part 3 of 4: How to stay safe after an earthquake
An important item to keep in your vehicle, in addition to your first-aid kit, is an earthquake survival kit, especially if you live or drive in states that experience frequent shakes. Your kit should include water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, am/fm radio, spare batteries, and a blanket or two.
In addition, a spare change of clothes can come in handy if you are stranded for a while. Keep paper maps on hand as well, in case of power outages or downed cell towers.
One side effect of an earthquake are aftershocks. While typically less severe than an earthquake, an aftershock can still cause quite a shake. Be aware of potential aftershocks, and should one occur, follow the instructions in Part 1 to safely stop your vehicle.
While driving, keep vigilant about any debris that may be in the road, accidents that may have occurred, or cracked and broken roads that may cause damage to your car. If power has been knocked out, traffic lights, streetlights, and other road safety mechanisms may not be working, causing further confusion after an earthquake.
Listen to emergency broadcasts on the radio for updates on the earthquake, any major damage you may wish to avoid, and updates.
Part 4 of 4: Making sure your car is insured for earthquake damage
If you only have standard liability insurance, your car will not be covered if any damage occurs as the result of an earthquake. Only a comprehensive insurance policy will likely cover any such damage. Be sure to check with your specific insurance provider for details as to whether your policy would cover you for any earthquake damage, and if not, what changes you may need to make to ensure you are covered.
Making sure you have the correct insurance policy and coverage in the case of an earthquake can make sure any damage is covered, with the only out of pocket expenses being your deductible, if applicable. Don’t be caught without the proper insurance coverage if you live in an area where earthquakes are a possibility.