HOUSTON (KIAH) — The summer is the season for lightning in southeast Texas. As thunderstorms generate on a hot afternoon. You may find yourself out on a beach, at the campsite, or on the road during one of these lightning filled storms.
This begs the question: Is my car safe to be in during a lightning storm?
According to the National Weather Service, “Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires,” contrary to popular belief.
If you think about the structure of convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells… these offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a car, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. This is why you should never lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
The car acts as a faraday cage! You may remember this topic from science class back in high school. A Faraday cage is an enclosure that prevents electromagnetic radiation from entering or exiting the shield.
IMPORTANT! The material of the faraday cage must be made up of something that can conduct electricity. This could be wire mesh, metallic sheets, coils of wire, copper, or most metals… including the framing of your car. The cage channels the electricity through the groud to try and remain at its “neutral charge”.
Wood is not a great conductor of electricity. This is why trees split if struck by lightning!