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Auto Club Offers Earthquake Tips For Motorists

Cracked streets earthquake by Carla Vasquez
Photo by Carla Vasquez

A pair of large earthquakes and hundreds of substantial aftershocks over the long July 4 holiday weekend in Ridgecrest serve as reminder for Southern Californians to prepare homes for the eventual “Big One,” but 34 million licensed California drivers who drive an average of 13,636 miles annually should be ready for an earthquake while on the road, too, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“Most of us are familiar with the techniques of responding to a quake while indoors, but we may not be aware of how to react if an earthquake occurs while driving,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center.  “Given the amount of time spent traveling, motorists should be prepared for major emergencies.”

Experiencing an earthquake while in a moving vehicle has been compared to driving on four flat tires.  The Auto Club offers these tips to better prepare vehicle owners if an earthquake occurs while they are driving:

  • Gradually decrease speed
  • Pull to the side of the road when safe to do so
  • Do not stop on or under overpasses or bridges until it’s safe to do so
  • Avoid parking near trees, downed power lines and buildings
  • Stop the car and keep your seat belt fastened
  • Remain in your car until the shaking stops
  • Keep in mind that aftershocks follow the initial earthquake
  • Turn on your car radio and listen for advisories that most radio stations are prepared to broadcast for emergency information.
  • If driving on the freeway and if it’s safe to do so, exit at the first opportunity.
  • Cooperate with law enforcement and public safety officers because they are trying to ensure your safety and that of others. 

In some cases, the route to your destination may be blocked by downed power lines, bridges, or ruptured roadways. Be prepared by having the following items in your vehicle in a kit or bag:

  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket radio with extra batteries
  • Tissues and pre-moistened towels
  • Tools (pocket knife, can opener, duct tape, pliers)
  • Extra clothes and sturdy shoes
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Fully-charged cell phone for GPS and local maps in case the phone runs out of power
  • Matches
  • Toiletries
  • Gloves
  • Prescription medicines

Note: Motorists should always keep their vehicle’s gas tank at least half-full and should not carry gas in the trunk. 


CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.