How to Survive an Earthquake While Driving; What to do during an earthquake while driving


IMAGINE this you are driving on the freeway then suddenly you feel a jolt which threw you off course. You thought you might be having a vertigo attack, but you see motorists in front of you swerving crazy, this is not just you---there’s an earthquake! What do you do?

Last Monday a strong earthquake measuring 6.1-magnitude registered on the Richter scale struck during the afternoon rush hour in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon which sent buildings to shake. It was strong enough to send people in panic and onto the streets and for the cities’ main trains to stop operations. And since it’s the rush hour many motorists are already on the streets driving home. What do you do if you’re stuck on the road when disaster strikes?

The country is part of Pacific Rim of Fire, ‘a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes, 90% of Earth’s earthquakes occur along its path including the planet’s most violent and dramatic seismic events,’ so earthquakes are no big deal, it’s a natural occurrence in this part of the world we are prepared for it (Drop, Cover, and Hold, right?)

 But what if you are out in the middle of the road?

Earthquakes lasts between 10 to 30 seconds, and then followed by small tremors called ‘aftershocks’ within minutes or hours, gradually diminishing in frequency.

Here are signs to look for if an earthquake is happening while driving.

  • Your car deviates off course and you seem to have a flat tire.
  • You can see power poles and trees swaying even there’s no wind.
  • There seem to be dust rising in the distance.
  • In an urban area, you see buildings swaying or glass structures breaking.
  • If it’s a strong tremor and you’re in the countryside or on cliffside road, landslides happen.
  • There may be cracks forming on the road.
  • If you’re near or at the epicenter of the earthquake, you might hear low rumbling noise.

What do you do?

  • Slow down and signal that you are stopping, and pull over to the shoulder. if possible, in an open area where there are no tall structures such as trees or buildings, or electric poles.
  • Turn on your hazard lights.
  • If on an overpass, wait until you are on solid ground before you stop—never stop in the middle unless cars in front of you are already stopping and pulling at the side. While in traffic just move away from expansion joints on an elevated highway which could fall off.
  • Turn off your engine after you parked your car to prevent damage on your vehicle or rupture the gas tank which could worsen the situation.
  • Put your emergency break on to keep your car from rolling backwards or forwards.
  • Switch your radio on or social media to assess the situation. Broadcast networks may provide valuable information about the extent of the earthquake such as evacuation routes, alternative routes in case of damaged road structures, rescue efforts and more.
  • When the tremors have stopped, assess your situation:
  • Are there powerlines which are down?
  • Conditions of the road: noticeable cracks or fissures? Landslides?
  • damage to your car like gas leaks? If you smell any gas? If there is immediately get out of your car.
  • If trapped or injured, or if others around you are, catch people’s attention for assistance.
  • If near a coastal area, leave your car and run toward the nearest high ground or structure you can find.

Remember to Create Your Go Bag a.k.a. Survival Kit/Preparedness Kit/

Assemble a Go Bag containing survival essentials to be used in case of emergency or disaster.

  • first-aid kit (pain and headache meds, feminine needs, hand sanitizer, alcohol, gauze, band-aid, disposable gloves, tweezers, safety pins, bandages, etc. );
  • toiletries – moist towelettes, garbage bags
  • Tool kit – car tool kit with wrench, pliers
  •  flashlight, extra batteries, mobile phone chargers, power banks, and cables 
  • Battery-powered radio, emergency LED lamps 
  • Food at least for three days, non-perishable food (crackers, nut and granola or energy bars, with can opener for food
  • Water -  one gallon per person at least for three days for drinking and sanitation
  • Local maps/important documents of each of your family members.
  • A whistle


Remember the adage, Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail. Better to be prepared than be sorry.

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