Whether you've been driving during a thunderstorm or whether you went out after the storm was over, you need to be very cautious if you see a power line down. You should never drive over the power line under any circumstances, of course, but what should you do? Here are some guidelines that will help keep you safe in this situation.
Stay in your car
If doing so isn't likely to cause you immediate injury, remain in your car and simply drive the other way. If your car hasn't touched anything that was touching the power line, other than the ground itself, this is probably the single safest course of action you can take. Don't stop to help clean up the area, and don't keep going if the power line is in your path; simply call 911 and stay in your car.
Don't touch anything
If you're not in a car when you come upon the downed power line, the safest course of action is still to avoid touching anything in the area. This includes people, trees, and other objects that are touching the line (or touching something else that's touching the line) as well as any water. Even a shallow puddle on the ground can easily become electrified and deliver a life-threatening shock. Instead, shuffle away slowly with both feet touching the ground until you're a safe distance away.
Don't become a pathway
If you're in your car and have to get out (say if the car has crashed and is on fire), you have to do this in a specific way so the electricity won't be able to use you as a pathway from the car to the ground. Before getting out, open the door wide so you have a clear path to exit without touching any part of the vehicle. Then, after making sure you're not wearing anything dangling that could touch the energized vehicle while you're trying to exit, leap out of the car so that you're not touching both the car and the ground at any point in time. Land with both feet touching the ground and shuffle away rather than walking so the current won't run up one leg and down the other.
Encountering a downed power line can easily cause severe electrical shock, so it's best to stay far away from downed power lines and wait until the line is repaired before trying to get past. To recap: never touch anything near a downed or compromised line (even water). Don't try to help. Instead, stay in your car (or if you're not in your car, shuffle away with small steps), and call 911 to report the danger.
For more information about being safe around electricity, consult a professional like Morris Electric Contracting & Service, Inc.