Many people think they’re safe in a car during lightning because the tyres are made of rubber. But that’s not true. When lightning strikes, the electric current actually flows around the outside of a car and then into the ground below. This is because a car acts like a mobile “Faraday cage”: an enclosure totally surrounded by conducting metal materials that prevent electromagnetic fields from entering.
The problem is, cars today have more and more non-metal parts which impede the protective Faraday effect. They also have more electrical circuits. Some electricity from lightning may well flow through these circuits, leading to potentially-dangerous metal parts such as radios, cell phone chargers and GPS units, as well as door handles, foot pedals and the steering column. There have been cases of strikes “frying” electrical systems, even causing airbags to deploy due to sudden engine shutdown.
How can you protect yourself in a violent storm? The best way is to stay in your metal-topped vehicle, stop by the side of the road, put your hazard lights on, turn off the engine and wait out the storm. Oh... and don’t touch the radio or your cell phone, especially if its connected to the charger.