Motor vehicle accidents involving power lines

Car smashed by telephone pole and large fallen tree

Electricity can energize vehicles and objects in car accidents

Motor vehicle accidents where power poles or transformers have been hit are serious and can be even more serious if power lines fall or break.

Always assume that cars, trucks and any other vehicles involved in the accident are energized with electricity. Fallen or broken power lines may still be energized, even if they're not sparking, smoking or making a buzzing sound.

If you must move around the scene of an accident, shuffle with your feet together. Don't walk, step or pick your feet up off the ground.

See our visual guide of what to do if you're involved in a motor vehicle accident and contact power lines

If you're outside the vehicle

  • Stay at least a bus-length away, which is 10 metres (33 feet).
  • Call 911.
  • Tell anyone in the vehicle to stay where they are.
  • When a BC Hydr ocrew arrives, they'll isolate and ground the damaged equipment to make it safe, and supervise the safe removal of the vehicle.

If you're inside the vehicle

  • If you can safely drive out from under the power line or away from the source of electricity, do so. Travel the length of a bus - about 10 metres (33 feet) - before stopping.
  • If you can't drive the vehicle - if you're injured, if the vehicle is inoperable, or there are obstacles in your way - stay where you are until help arrives. Unless there's a secondary emergency, such as a fire in the vehicle - you're safer where you are.
  • If you absolutely must get out of the vehicle (e.g. because of a fire), remember you must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time with any part of your body or clothing. Be sure to follow these steps:
  1. Remove any loose-fitting clothing like jackets or scarves.
  2. Use the handle to open the door to your vehicle, but don't touch the door itself.
  3. Stand at the opening of your door with your elbows tucked into your stomach and your hands held close to your chest.
  4. Jump out and away from the vehicle. Land with your feet together - don't stumble.
  5. Calmly shuffle with your feet together. Keep your feet touching as you shuffle. The heel of one foot should still be touching the toe of the other when you start moving the other leg.
  6. Keep shuffling until you are at least a bus-length away from the vehicle (10 metres or 33 feet).
  7. Call 911.