What to do: If your car crashes into a utility pole

Always consider power lines and other electrical equipment to be live and dangerous!

Slick winter roads can pose the threat of sliding into the ditch and coming into contact with electrical equipment, but the fact is that accidents of this nature can happen at any time.

A vehicle accident can be a traumatizing event. Immediately after, the main concern is injury or damage to the vehicle, but if electricity is involved, a few extra moments of consideration can be the difference between life and death.

“In a vehicle crash, electricity is probably one of the last things on the minds of the driver and passengers,” says Mike Mead, manager of safety at Cass County Electric Cooperative. “But if the vehicle hits a power pole, it can be exposed to thousands of volts of electricity with minimal outward signs.”

While downed lines can sometimes reveal they are live by arcing and sparking with electricity, this is not always the case. Power lines do not always show signs that they are live, but they are just as lethal.

If you are in an accident with a utility pole, your vehicle may be charged with electricity. Exiting the vehicle presents the risk for electrocution, as you may become electricity’s path to ground. If it is safe to do so, remain in the vehicle, call 911, and wait for help to arrive.

The safest place to be is almost always inside the car. The only circumstance when you should exit the vehicle is if it is on fire—and those instances are rare. Follow the steps below to keep yourself and others safe after a vehicle crash when exiting the vehicle is necessary

vehicle accident diagram