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Unfortunately, crashes do happen on our roads. As a responsible driver, you need to know the signs that show you are coming up to the scene of a crash and what your responsibilities are if you’re involved in a crash or if you come across a crash.

Crash warning signs

At a crash site the police may use signs, flashing lights and flares to warn approaching drivers.

When coming up to a crash site, slow down and drive carefully. The road may be blocked and there could be injured people lying on it.

crash sign



Crash signs

The signs shown above are placed by police near a crash site. They mean you must drive at 20km/h or less until you pass the crash site. Watch out for emergency workers and injured people.

Warning triangle

The triangle shown above is a warning triangle. It means there is a breakdown or crash ahead. Anyone can put a warning triangle on the side of the road to warn other road users.

Reporting a crash

If you are involved in a crash while driving, and you are not badly injured, the first thing you must do is stop and check to see if anyone is hurt, and provide assistance.

If someone is hurt, you must tell a police officer as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the crash.

If no one is hurt, you must give your name, address and vehicle registration (and, if asked, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving, if it isn’t your vehicle) as soon as possible but no later than 48 hours after the crash to:

  • the owner or driver of any other vehicle that has been damaged
  • the owner of any property that has been damaged.

If you can’t find these people, you must tell a police officer as soon as possible and no later than 60 hours after the crash. If your vehicle is insured, tell your insurance company as soon as possible after the crash.

Tips for dealing with crashes

If you are first on the scene of a crash, your actions could help save the lives of the people involved in the crash and make it safer for other drivers coming upon the crash scene.

Here are some things you can do to help make the crash scene safer:

  • Park your car in a safe spot, away from the crash area. Leave plenty of space for emergency vehicles to come and go, and for emergency workers to work in.
  • Switch on your car’s hazard warning lights.
  • If possible, post other people or warning triangles on all approaches to the crash site to warn oncoming drivers. The people or triangles should be about 200 metres from the crash site to give approaching drivers time to slow down.
  • If people are injured, call an ambulance as soon as possible.
  • Following a crash, some airbags may not be deployed. If you need to enter a crashed vehicle, don’t place yourself between any undeployed airbag and injured or trapped person. Undeployed airbags can deploy with force some minutes after a crash and could injure both the rescuer and injured/trapped person.
  • If it is safe to do so, turn off the ignition of all vehicles involved in the crash.
  • If any vehicle involved in the crash has a dangerous goods placard, follow the instructions on crashes involving dangerous goods.

If people have been injured in the crash, you should call an ambulance as soon as you can. Before the ambulance comes, there are some things you may be able to do to help them and some things you should be aware of, which are outlined in this section.


Dial 111 for emergency services.

Dial *555 to report traffic incidents.

Basic first aid

Ideally, you should enrol in a recognised first aid course so you can learn techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation under proper supervision. This will make you more confident and more capable of using first aid if you have to.

Try not to move injured people

If a victim has spinal injuries, moving them may only worsen their injuries. You should never move a crash victim unless it is absolutely necessary. The only instances where you should move someone before medical help arrives are when:

  • the person is trapped in a vehicle that is on fire or in danger of catching fire
  • it is necessary to move them to:
    • give CPR
    • give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
    • stop severe bleeding.

If the crash victim is a motorcyclist, you should never remove their helmet.

Stopping severe bleeding

If the patient is bleeding badly, you should try to stop or reduce the bleeding.

  • Raise the part of the body that is bleeding. This will take some of the blood away from the wound.
  • Apply pressure to the wound, preferably with thick, folded fabric, such as a towel or an item of clothing.

Crashes involving dangerous goods

If you come across a crash involving a vehicle that is carrying dangerous goods, you will need to be extremely careful. Never make a rescue attempt unless you are sure you are not endangering yourself by coming into contact with dangerous substances.

Most vehicles carrying dangerous goods display a placard that indicates the type of goods being carried. Some of the most common placards are shown below. You should familiarise yourself with these placards and what they mean.

dangerous-goods-sign.gifDangerous goods

toxic-sign.gifToxic substances



flammable-liquid-sign.gifFlammable liquid

oxidising-agent-sign.gifOxidising agent

corrosive-substances-sign-2.gifCorrosive substances

Remember, if you’re at a crash site and you’re in any doubt about the meaning of a placard, keep your distance – especially if there’s been a spillage. Poisonous fumes may be given off by a dangerous substance.

Make a careful note of the colour and symbol on the placard and give this information to the emergency services when phoning to report a crash and when they arrive at the crash site. Keep bystanders well away from the crash scene and upwind of poisonous fumes.