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If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, it’s important to know how to stay safe while driving when the ground starts shaking. There is a chance that you might not feel a small earthquake in a moving car. But if you do, then it’s likely a large enough one that you’ll need to take caution. Here is what you can do to drive safely during an earthquake.

What should you do in an earthquake while driving?

A car destroyed by building rubble after an earthquake
A car was destroyed by building rubble after an earthquake. | Damir SENCAR / AFP

The key to driving during an earthquake is not to drive at all. If you happen to notice the cars around you stopping suddenly and people coming out of buildings, then it is time to slow your car down and come to a stop. Here are a few other tips that Jerry, an auto insurance website, recommends in regards to staying safe during an earthquake:

  • Pull over to a safe spot: If you’re driving and you notice the car shaking, then pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road, if possible. If it’s not possible, stop the car where you are as long as it’s safe.
  • Make sure not to block the road: If you can’t stop the car on the side, make sure you’re not blocking traffic.
  • Turn off the engine: After you park the car, shut off the engine immediately.
  • Stay inside the car: Stay in the car and cover your head until the earthquake is over.
  • Keep the radio on: Have your car’s radio turned on so you can follow directions from any emergency officials.
  • Drive slowly: Do so slowly when it’s safe to drive away.
  • Call 911: If a powerline has fallen on your car, call 911.

After pulling away from the spot that you were in, you can anticipate that there will be traffic light outages. In that case, treating every intersection like a four-way stop is important. Also, watch out for any visible bridge and overpass damage.

Create an earthquake survival kit

A man peers inside a destroyed car after an earthquake.
A man peers inside a destroyed car after an earthquake. | Carl Court/Getty Images

In the event that you get caught in an earthquake while driving, an earthquake survival kit can come in handy. Fortunately, you can build a survival kit at home and place it in the trunk of your car for some added peace of mind. Start putting the kit together using a large container that won’t take up too much space in your car. After procuring the container, AAA recommends to add the following items to it:

  • Water bottles
  • Energy or granola bars
  • A foghorn or some type of noise-making device
  • A flashlight
  • A first-aid kit
  • A blanket

Remember to stay away from powerlines and fallen trees

Cars on a damaged bridge after an earthquake.
Cars on a damaged bridge after an earthquake. | Getty Images

If you exit your car after an earthquake has subsided, it’s important to stay away from fallen trees and power lines. Aftershocks can still occur after a major earthquake, which can cause even more damage to the buildings and other fixtures around you.

Staying safe in an earthquake is important, even when driving in your car. The best thing to do is to stop the car, turn it off, and stay in it until it’s safe to drive or get out if needed.


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