You’ve just crashed into a utility pole. What now?


At first, it seems like the situation could hardly be worse. Your vehicle has skidded off the road, and you’ve struck a utility pole.

But even if you’ve been injured as a result of the crash, things could suddenly get even more dangerous — unless you’re aware of how to safely exit your vehicle.

The force of the collision might have brought down the pole or power lines. If they fall on your vehicle or nearby, the area around the accident could have become electrically charged. Sometimes you can tell that downed lines are “live” because they are sparking, but this is not always the case. Power lines don’t always show signs that they are still energized, but they are still just as lethal. If you step out of your vehicle under those circumstances, your body can become the “path to ground” for the electrical energy, and you could be electrocuted.

First instinct may be to get out of the car, but that’s the wrong thing to do. The safest place after a collision with a power pole is inside the vehicle. Call 911 for help, tell the dispatcher that you’ve been in an accident involving electrical equipment, warn others who stop to check on you to stay away, and wait for word from VEC that it’s safe for you to exit the vehicle.

The only exception to this guidance is when the accident results in a fire. In that case, you should keep your feet together and jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground at the same time. Then hop away from the scene while keeping your feet together (your feet should never stop touching); this way, there won’t be a voltage difference between your two feet, which would give electricity the chance to flow through your body. Keep hopping until you are at least 35 feet away from your vehicle and any downed power lines.