Recognize what is happening
It can sometimes be hard to tell that an earthquake is happening. Members in recent big shakes reported that it felt like their tyres had suddenly gone flat. If you notice a sudden change in the way your vehicle is handling, slow down and look for clues, such as many vehicles slowing down, buildings and powerlines shaking, or people taking cover.
Pull over safely
Pull over to a safe place as soon as you can, turn off the engine and put on the handbrake. Don’t park under anything that could fall on to the vehicle; avoid stopping under bridges, lamp posts, trees and power lines.
Stay in the car
While the shaking is going on, you are safest in your car with your seatbelt on. It will give you some protection from falling objects. Do not get out of your vehicle to lie underneath it, as you could be crushed by it moving around.
Once the shaking has stopped
Before you get out of your vehicle after the ‘quake, you need to check for hazards such as fallen power lines or objects above you that might drop. If power lines have fallen on your car, do not get out. Likewise, if you see a vehicle which has power lines on it, don’t touch it. A trained professional will need to ensure the power is off before it is safe to approach.
Use your car radio to get news about how bad the earthquake damage is and advice on what to do next.
Driving after a quake
A big quake is followed by plenty of aftershocks which can cause further damage so, if you start driving again, keep away from hazardous areas and be ready to stop again. Listen to the radio or check online for any roads that are impassable.
Avoid driving over any large cracks in the road, on or under bridges and ramps that appear damaged, or through any floodwaters. Watch out for landslips that could have come down on roads.
If you are in an area where there is a tsunami risk, get to higher ground as quickly as possible.
Immediately after the recent quakes, a lot of drivers were seen texting or going online with their phones while behind the wheel. It’s understandable behaviour, but it’s not going to do anyone any good to be involved in a crash. Stay focussed on driving when you’re driving and pull over if you need to use your phone.
Have supplies in your car in case of an emergency situation. Have a bag that you can grab and take with you if you need to leave your vehicle. Good things to include are snacks and water, a poncho or jacket in case of rain, a hat and gloves, an emergency blanket, a torch, a radio, a first-aid kit and walking shoes.
Reported for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue