How to Escape a Tornado When You're Driving

Tornadoes are one of the most devastating types of storms in the United States, and you should avoid them at all costs. Whether you are driving to Grandma's house or just on a joy ride, you need to know what to do if you see a tornado forming in the distance.

What Should I Do if I See a Tornado While I'm Driving?

The best course of action when you see a tornado in the distance is to turn the car around and drive away from it. If this isn't an option, you should know your secondary options such as the different ways to take shelter. Follow these steps, and hopefully, you will make it through the tornado unscathed.

1. Determine the Path of the Tornado

The first thing you should do when you see a tornado appear in the distance is to try and determine how far away it is, what direction it is heading in, and how fast it is moving. All of these factors determine your next step to stay safe when driving in a storm.

2. Drive Away From the Tornado

If you can see that the tornado is pretty far away from you, your best option is to turn the car around and get out of there as quickly as possible. You should always drive at a right angle to the tornado. For example, if the tornado is moving to the east or west, you should drive to the north or south.

3. Seek a Sturdy Shelter

If you have the time to safely drive away from the tornado, you should be on the lookout for a stable place you can take shelter until the storm passes. These include structures like a truck stop, restaurant, or convenience store. When you get inside, head to the basement, a hallway, or anywhere without windows near the center of the building. Do not park underneath a highway overpass, as they will not provide you with any protection.

4. Hide in Your Vehicle

If the tornado touches down in your immediate vicinity and you don't have time to try and escape, you must take shelter immediately. The best course of action is to try and quickly pull over into an area that is lower than the road if possible. Next, make sure your seatbelt is tightly fastened, and then huddle down so your head is below the car windows. Cover yourself with a blanket from your emergency kit or anything that can provide extra protection to your head. Remain in place until you can't hear any more sounds from the tornado.

What Are the Signs of an Impending Tornado?

There are three indicators that you should be on the lookout for with an impending tornado. If you see any combination of these, seek shelter immediately.

  • Color — The sky will be very dark or take on a strange color like brown, green, or yellow.

  • Sight — Swirling debris or funnel-shaped clouds may be visible before the tornado itself.

  • Sound — The wind moving at a high speed can produce sounds like a freight train or a high-pitched whistle.

Avoid Tornadoes at All Costs

If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, you should know the signs of a tornado and all of the ways you should react to one. Once you are able to ensure your safety, try signing up for a defensive driving course on This course will teach you additional ways to be safe while driving through in-person lessons, exciting lesson plans, and online content.

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