An earthquake can often impact an area without any prior warning even if seismograph activity has failed to predict it. Sometimes, you don't even have to be on a recognised fault line to be caught out.
Driving during an earthquake is often likened to driving with four flat tyres on your vehicle. What should you be doing to preserve your own safety, and that of your passengers, if you're driving when an earthquake hits?
Reduce your speed gradually. Sudden braking may catch other drivers by surprise and cause an unwanted accident.
Park only when it is safe go do so and try to pull over in a cleared area. If you are driving on the freeway when an earthquake strikes, only continue if it is safe to do so and try to exit the freeway at the first available opportunity.
Try and avoid parking near trees, buildings, power lines, underpasses and bridges. If you have to park your vehicle in a potentially dangerous environment, make sure you leave the area yourself and find somewhere more suitable to wait until the earthquake has passed.
If you have managed to park in a safe location, remain in the car until the earthquake has passed. Only leave your vehicle if staying inside poses an immediate threat to the welfare of you or your passengers. Leave seat belts on if you are remaining inside your car.
Leave the radio inside your vehicle running. Most stations, especially local networks, will broadcast regular updates. Do not consider driving until the local authorities have declared it safe to do so.
Check yourself and your passengers for injuries once the earthquake is over. Never use telephone lines unless you need urgent assistance or a member of your party is severely injured.
Once it is safe to drive again, proceed with extreme caution. Avoid bridges and ramps that may have suffered earthquake damage and keep a close eye out for cracks and breaks in the road or surrounding structures.
Never drive over fallen power lines. If you see downed power lines, contact the local authorities, police department or radio station to make sure other drivers and residents are aware of them.
Remember that the threat of aftershocks remain in the wake of an earthquake.
If you regularly drive through areas that experience earthquakes, consider packing an emergency kit into your car. This could consist of several items including:
- A first aid kit
- Sleeping bags or a warm blanket
- A flashlight and spare batteries
- A hand-held radio and spare batteries
- A bottle of water
- A fire extinguisher
- A book of matches
- Maps of local areas
- Any prescription medicines that you or your passengers may be taking
- Cookies, chocolate bars or glucose tablets
Always remember that your vehicle has a significantly lower value than your life or the lives of your passengers. Never insist on staying with your vehicle when it is clearly unsafe to do so. Always be encouraging and helpful to other drivers who may be distressed, injured or upset in the aftermath of seismic activity.