The following is completely true and actually happened to me on Wed March 29, 2006. I posted the following on a private web forum that day, and thought it important enough to also share with “the masses”:
Something that I won’t forget any time soon happened in front of me on my way to work today, and I thought it would make for a valuable safety tip.
As I was approaching a stop light this morning, one of those city yard waste trucks (you know, the ones with those hydraulic booms with the bucket on the end) was moving through the intersection towards me with its boom in the “up” position. Before I could completely realize what was happening, the extended boom had knocked down some power lines (causing some scary looking fireworks up high on the streetlight pole) and had also knocked the streetlight down from it’s pole. (see attached photo taken after all the excitement was over)
I was just arriving at the intersection when this accident happened in front of me. I started flashing my lights and honking my horn (as if the two guys in the city truck didn’t see and hear the world crashing down around them). Two bundles of lines had fallen from the power poles. One was laying on the ground in front of the city truck and the other was laying directly across the city truck’s bed. I pulled off the road and rolled down my window because the guys in the truck had opened both of their doors and I was afraid that they were going to get out of the truck. I yelled repeatedly at them from across the intersection that there were “live wires” on their truck. To my horror, both men jumped out of the truck and the driver actually grabbed the bundle that was laying across the bed of his truck and flung it off the back of the truck to the ground. I was still screaming at him that there were “live wires”. I was kinda freaked out. Either this guy is actually Superman, or the lines laying across the truck were not actually live (anymore). The latter was actually true. But why in the world would anyone feel the need to risk being electrocuted? I’m fairly certain that the safe thing to do if you have downed power lines on your vehicle is to stay inside and wait for help. The rubber tires on your vehicle will likely insulate you from being shocked until a breaker can be opened to insure that it is completely safe to get out of the vehicle. Edit: Turns out that the rubber tires on your vehicle actually do conduct electricity, but that’s okay, because then the electricity takes the least resistive path to ground through the tires. Either way, it is still safer to stay inside the cab than to get out.
P.S. Also, if you come upon an intersection that has lost power and the streetlights are not working, you are supposed to treat the intersection like a 4-way stop. People were continuously zooming through the intersection after this accident at full speed (45 mph), until the fire trucks and police arrived.