DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Ameren Illinois and Illinois High School and College Drivers Education Association teamed up to create a new curriculum for beginning drivers that teaches them what to do if they come across a downed power line.
Ron Pate, Senior Vice President Operations and Technical Services, said this partnership started after an Illinois teen got into an accident with downed powers lines. In 2017, Jordy Curtis was headed home during a storm Tolono. The strong winds of the storm knocked power lines down across her car. She scared teen thought her car would catch on fire so she ran. Curtis later found out the lines were dead, but was informed about deadly situation she could have been in if the lines were alive. Pate explained, after that she decided to reach out to Ameren Illinois and ask them to work with driver's education to make sure new drivers are informed.
"To this young lady's credit she took that opportunity to be proactive," said Pate.
During the course of a year there are about 5,000 times a utility pole is hit, Pate explained. When a power lines falls onto a car it can be a dangerous and even deadly situation. If someone was to step out of their car, while a line was down on it, they would be electrocuted.
"It's so critical not to panic and call emergency crews right away," said Pate.
Over 500 driver's education educators looked into the new curriculum. Jennifer Brown has been a driver's instructor for 20 years and said as the times change so do the courses. She explained that kids are learning differently now, so this partnership with Ameren Illinois gives students a real-life situation.
"Kids need to see it. We just live in that generations where, oh, it's not going to happen to me," she explained. "If they don't put some connection to it then it's out of sight and out of mind."
Brown recalled a situation where students were headed home from prom and had the same situation happen to them. She said they were traveling along the highway when they came across downed lines. Brown said the students called them and told them they would be late because they weren't going to drive any further and would stay put until emergency personal arrived.
"One of the thankless jobs as a teacher is you don't know if you made the point," she said. "We never know what impact we make, in this situation, it's great because they are still here with us."
If a driver comes into a situation where a power line is down on their car or around them, know that the area around may become energizes. Ameren Illinois reminds drivers to assume all the downed lines are live, even if they aren't smoking or sparking. Drivers should not leave their car and if other's are in the area they should, if they can, tell others to avoid the area. Finally, a driver or someone should call 911 and wait for the power company and emergency personal to arrive to de-energize the lines.
Pate said it's unlikely, but if a car starts smoking or catches fire, a person should jump out with both feet together, without touching the car and hitting the ground at the same time. Then once landed they should shuffle or bunny hop as far as far away as possible, but both feet must stay together.
The course is online and available for anyone to use or look at. There is a module video, printable info graphic, quizzes and notes or click here to learn more.