Debunking the tire myth - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Debunking the tire myth

It's a beautiful afternoon, and you're outside in the park.  Then, a powerful thunderstorm moves in within minutes.  There are no nearby structures or buildings for shelter, but your car is nearby so you make a run for it.  After all, the tires will protect you from lightning strikes, right?


It's an idea that was first thought of in the late 1800s, on bicycles.  A rubber tire is an insulator, so it is very difficult for it to conduct electricity.  The same with rubber-soled shoes. The problem is, it's only effective up until a certain point. A 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 30,000 plus amp bolt of lightning can burn through any insulator. 

It's not the tires that offer protection in a vehicle, but the metal frame around it (not great news for convertibles).  The metal frame channels the lightning around the passenger compartment before arcing to the ground.  You can still be injured inside your car, especially if you're touching something metal inside, but it is MUCH safer inside the car than out.

So, when you're stuck outside with nowhere to go but your car, go to your car.  However, if you have a choice between your car and a building, get inside the building.

Check out this YouTube clip of the BBC show "Top Gear" that demonstrates a car being struck by lightning -

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