For Immediate Release: December 10, 2018

SMUD protecting power poles from cars and trucks

Sharp rise in “car-into-pole” accidents jeopardize public safety and power reliability

SMUD has seen a considerable increase in the number of incidents that involve vehicles crashing into the electric utility’s infrastructure, especially power poles. In an effort to mitigate some of those “car-pole” accidents and promote public and worker safety, SMUD is expanding measures designed to reduce the number of vehicle accidents that involve SMUD equipment, thereby reducing the number of associated power outages. The measures are part of an ongoing five-year pilot program that started in 2017.

SMUD data shows an increasing trend of these incidents annually. In 2006 for example, there were 153 accidents where vehicles crashed into SMUD electrical equipment—mostly into power poles. In 2016, there were almost double that number annually—271. Many reasons are cited like increased traffic volume, and distracted and unsafe driving. The result is increased potential for public and worker safety hazards and more power outages.

SMUD is focusing its mitigation efforts on power poles and electrical equipment that has been crashed into multiple times over the years. The preventive and protective measures include removing and relocating power poles; redesigning them; installing higher-visibility reflective strips; and installing large, highly visible protective barriers around the power poles, known as “Raptor” technology.

The Raptor is probably the most noticeable power protection tool SMUD is using. It is big and yellow and plastic, and resembles a large wedge of cheddar cheese wrapped around the bottom of the power pole. Some even liken it to the cartoon character “Sponge Bob.”

The Raptor is easily installed and is designed to absorb the impact of a vehicle crash, sparing the power pole and preventing a power outage for SMUD customers. The Raptor has been used successfully by other utilities and SMUD has seen benefits too following the first year and during the second year of the pilot program. By year’s end, SMUD will have installed three more Raptors to add to the first three that were installed in 2017, making six in all and more are coming.

Safety is a guiding principle for SMUD. Power reliability is also a top priority. SMUD’s Board of Directors, elected by SMUD customers to set policy, has made reliability one of SMUD’s core values. While car-pole accidents comprise about five percent of all types of SMUD outages annually, they account for about a quarter of the overall average duration of outages for SMUD’s customers. Car-pole accidents also mean lost revenue for SMUD in terms of increased costs for labor and materials to repair and replace damaged electrical infrastructure. A single pole replacement on average costs $15,000, and in some cases up to $40,000, for the five-member crew to replace it and other associated expenses for each incident.

Beyond SMUD’s costs, pole replacements can take eight hours or more and cost the community’s businesses lost revenue from power outages and associated traffic jams due to lane closures to make the repairs.

SMUD is doing its part to increase public and worker safety and reduce the frequency and duration of outages due to these traffic accidents. SMUD also urges motorists to do their part by driving safely, obeying traffic laws and avoiding anything that may cause distractions. For more information about SMUD and its commitment to public and worker safety, visit


SMUD has seen an increase in “car-pole” accidents in recent years, so the electric utility is installing some measures to mitigate damage to power poles and other electrical equipment. The work is part of SMUD’s efforts to enhance public and worker safety and the SMUD grid’s reliability.

PLEASE NOTE: News media may request to shoot photos or video and interview a subject matter expert. SMUD also has photos and b-roll video available for news media who request it. Please contact SMUD News Media Services to arrange.