A car can be a safe place to ride out a lightning storm -- as long as you aren't driving when the bolt strikes.
That's what happened to Al and Betty Perry recently as they were driving down a stretch of highway near Edmonton, Canada. The couple's car was struck by lightning while it was in motion, resulting in a fiery blast that melted parts of the vehicle.
Surveillance cameras captured footage of the strike.
"It sounded like a sonic boom,” Al Perry recalled in a later interview with CTV News.
The bolt deployed the vehicle's airbags and apparently fried its electronics, locking the couple inside while smoke began to fill the cabin. Despite their best efforts, the two couldn't escape the smoldering truck, Al Perry told CTV.
"I turned my body and put my two feet up and tried to kick the window out,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I tried and tried and tried."
But just as their truck became what Al Perry called a "coffin," a police officer drove by. He helped rescue Al and Betty, and neither sustained serious injuries in the incident.
The damage done to the Perry's car is consistent with findings from the National Weather Service, which reports that lightning striking a car can ruin the vehicle's electrical system, leaving it inoperable.
According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, if you find yourself driving during a storm, the best choice is to pull over.
"We suggest pulling off to the side of the road in a safe manner, turning on the emergency blinkers, turning off the engine, putting one's hands in one's lap, and waiting out the storm," the institute says on its website.
Contrary to popular belief, a car's ability to shelter its occupants from lightning has nothing to do with the vehicle's tires. Instead, it's the metal of the car's chassis, which directs the energy toward the ground, that saves lives. For maximum lightning safety, the car's windows should also be rolled up.
The NLSI notes, however, that "situations alter results." If the car is made of fiberglass or is a convertible, for example, the conductor effect may not work.