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Motor vehicle accidents involving power lines

Winter storms can bring power lines onto the road. Know what to do if it happens to you.

Electricity can energize vehicles and objects in car accidents

In the event of a car accident involving a power line or pole, there are important things you should know in order to keep yourself and others safe. The steps below outline what you should do if you're involved in this type of accident or witness one.

Always assume that any vehicle involved in the accident is energized with electricity. Downed or broken power lines may be energized, even if they're not sparking, smoking or making a buzzing sound.

Watch the video above and see our visual guide for more information on what to do if your vehicle contacts a power pole or line.

If your vehicle contacts a power pole

  • 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. Then dial 911.
  • If you can't drive the vehicle - if you're injured, if the vehicle is inoperable, or there are obstacles in your way - dial 911 and 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 of your vehicle.
  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. As you exit, don't touch the door and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together – don't stumble.
  5. Calmly shuffle with your feet together. Keep your feet touching each other as you shuffle. The heel of one foot should still be touching the toe of the other when you start moving the other leg. Also never lift either foot off the ground.
  6. Keep shuffling until you are at least 10 metres (33 feet) or a bus-length away from the vehicle.
  7. Call 911 for help.

If you witness a vehicle contact a power pole

  • Stay at least 10 metres (33 feet) or a bus length away.
  • Call 911.
  • Tell anyone in the vehicle to stay where they are.
  • If the vehicle catches on fire, do not try to put it out with a fire extinguisher or water. If the car is energized by a live power line, it will continue to reignite.
  • When a BC Hydro crew arrives, they'll isolate and ground the damaged equipment to make it safe, and supervise the safe removal of the vehicle.