How to Handle Emergencies

Do not use the horn, except in an emergency or to prevent injury to people or property.

Breakdown on the road

Approach a broken-down vehicle or crash scene with caution. Do not allow yourself to be distracted from the road. Look out for pedestrians at the scene.

If your vehicle has engine trouble and slows, move left, as far as possible from traffic.

If your vehicle breaks down on the road in an exposed position:

  • activate the hazard warning lights immediately
  • have passengers leave the vehicle when safe and keep them well clear of traffic
  • if possible, avoid working on the traffic side of your vehicle
  • you may place a hazard warning triangle to the side of the road or lane. Within a ‘built-up’ area, place the triangle up to 50m away. Outside ‘built-up’ areas or on high-speed roads, place it up to 200m away. When walking to place the triangle, hold it in front of you to alert drivers to the hazard. Hold it behind you when you collect it and return. If you are driving a heavy vehicle (more than 12t), use these triangles if you are broken down at night on a road outside ‘built-up’ areas
  • if you have a bright, reflective safety vest – wear it
  • during an on-road emergency use a CB radio ‘road channel’ to alert traffic, particularly heavy vehicles

Emergency assistance may sometimes be reached via the government allocated CB radio ‘Emergency Channel’ - 9 (on HF) or 5 (on UHF). Try both simplex and duplex.

Tyre blow-out (rapid puncture)

A front wheel puncture will pull your vehicle in the direction of the puncture.
A rear wheel puncture will tend to cause you to swerve side to side.

If a puncture occurs:

  • keep a firm grip on the steering wheel
  • do not oversteer to correct any swerve or pull
  • take your foot off the accelerator
  • once you have better control, gently apply the brakes
  • slow down, pull over to the roadside, and stop in a safe spot
  • use hazard lights (if fitted)

A stuck accelerator

A stuck accelerator is when you release the accelerator and you continue at the same speed or accelerate. If this happens:

  • depress the clutch, or in an auto, select ‘NEUTRAL’ (‘N’)
  • apply firm pressure on the brakes without locking the wheels
  • find a safe place to pull off the road and stop
  • stop and then turn off the ignition
  • use hazard lights (if fitted)

Brake failure

Brake failure is when you push the brake and you do not slow down or stop:

  • it may help to pump the brake pedal hard and fast
  • move to a lower gear whether you are driving a manual or an automatic
  • gently apply the handbrake
  • if necessary, use your horn and/or flash your headlights to warn others
  • move to the side of the road
  • carefully stop the vehicle using the handbrake
  • use hazard lights (if fitted)

Possible head-on collision

Another vehicle is speeding towards you and a head-on collision seems likely:

  • brake firmly without skidding, while flashing your lights and sounding your horn
  • give the oncoming vehicle all the room you can
  • look for an avenue of escape
  • prepare for further evasive action, including pulling off the road if necessary

Forced on to the gravel

If forced on to the gravel road edge, don’t rush to get back on to the road, instead:

  • keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and drive in a straight line
  • slow down and check traffic before you re-enter

Bonnet flies up

If your bonnet flies up:

  • slow down
  • look through the hinge gap or use side windows to retain a view of the road
  • brake smoothly to a stop, pulling off the road as soon as possible

Shattered windscreen

If your windscreen shatters:

  • slow down
  • pull over to the roadside as soon as possible

Stalled on a railway crossing

If you hear or see a train coming, leave the car immediately. Do not risk your or others’ lives trying to save a car. If no trains are coming:

  • make 1 or 2 attempts to re-start the engine, be careful not to flatten the battery
  • if you cannot re-start the engine, get out and seek help to push your vehicle off
  • if your car is a manual, you may be able to move it by trying this:
  • put the car in first or reverse gear
  • release the clutch and take your feet off all pedals
  • turn the key to, and hold it in, the start position (the car should move enough to get you off the track)
  • if your car is an auto, select ‘NEUTRAL’ (‘N’) and try to push it off the track

Car fire

Most vehicle fires are caused by a short circuit in the electrical system. If this happens:

  • slow down, stop and turn off the ignition
  • get any passengers out and away from the fire
  • if the fire is beyond control, move away as petrol may explode
  • if you have an appropriate extinguisher, put the fire out
  • if you do not, try to extinguish the flames with a thick cloth/garment, sand or dirt
  • try to isolate and remove the cause. Disconnect the battery quickly if possible. If this is not practical, rip loose burning wires with a tool
  • NEVER touch burning wires or insulation with your bare hands
  • call for help


A skid is when your wheels lock and the car is dragged along by momentum, meaning you lose steering control. The only way to regain control is to stop the skid.

What causes skids?

A skid does not just happen. It is almost always the result of a driver’s actions:

  • excessive speed
  • harsh acceleration
  • sudden/excessive braking
  • coarse/uncontrolled steering

Skids are always dangerous, but certain conditions can make them even worse:

  • poor car maintenance, such as bald tyres and low tyre pressure
  • road conditions - water, oil or sand on the road can make it slippery

The ABC of avoiding skids

You are unlikely to have much time/space to correct a skid. Understanding skid causes helps you to avoid them. Adjust your speed to suit conditions and remember the ABC:

  • Accelerate gently
  • Brake gently
  • Corner gently

Post Crash Management

Avoid crashes, but know if you are involved in one, stop immediately and:

  • help anyone injured after checking your actions do not put yourself or others in danger. Send someone for help if required
  • give your name, address and number plate to the owner or driver of the other vehicle. If property has been damaged, give the owner your particulars as well
  • if someone has been injured, report the crash to the Insurance Commission of WA. Provide the name and address of all drivers, number plates of all vehicles, time, date and crash location 
  • if any injury has occurred, or there is > $3,000 damage to vehicles/property (in total), or if the owner of the damaged property is not present, you MUST report the crash to the police

Penalties are severe for not stopping to help when involved in a crash where someone has been injured (prison, loss of licence, fines, demerit points).

If removing a wrecked vehicle from a road, you must remove any glass or destructive or dangerous substance or item that has fallen on the road. This is the responsibility of the driver, or if they are injured, the person who removes the vehicle from the road.

First Aid

The first few minutes after an injury are vital. Until trained help arrives, your knowledge may save a life. Injuries like blocked airways or severe bleeding may be life-threatening.

Consider undertaking a first aid course to prepare you to help at the scene of a crash.

How can you help?

Remember the St John Ambulance Action Plan, DRSABCD:

Danger, Response, Send, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation


Check if there is any danger to you first, then bystanders and then the injured person.

If possible:

  • Position your car to protect the crash scene
  • Switch on hazard warning lights or indicators
  • Send someone to warn approaching traffic
  • Secure the crashed vehicle by turning it off and putting on the handbrake
  • Prevent others from smoking near the crash site
  • Stay away from fallen power lines, especially if close to or touching the vehicle

Do not move injured people unless they are in danger (e.g. the vehicle is on fire).


  1. Check whether the injured person is conscious
  2. If conscious, talk to and reassure them. Check for injuries and treat
  3. If unconscious, send for help and then check their airway

Send for Help

  • Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance
  • If there is a bystander, ask them to make the call


The highest priority is to ensure the airway is open and clear so breathing is possible.

  1. Open the airway by lifting the chin and tilting the head back
  2. Open mouth to look inside for foreign material (e.g. vomit, fluid, broken teeth)
  3. If foreign material is found, clear the airway using your fingers


  1. Check for normal breathing for up to 10 seconds by looking for chest movement, listening and feeling. Gasping is not normal breathing.
  2. If breathing normally, monitor breathing, manage injuries and treat for shock.
  3. If not breathing normally, start CPR.

If unconscious and trapped in the car, you can still perform CPR by tilting the seat back as far as possible to allow for better access and positioning.

CPR = Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

CPR is the process of giving 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths. Expect to do 5 sets of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths in about 2 minutes.

Signs of life = breathing normally, responsive and moving.

If not breathing normally (e.g. gasping), responding or moving, begin CPR.

Giving chest compressions

With the injured person on their back, give 30 chest compressions:

  • Locate the lower half of the breastbone and place the heel of one hand, the other on top, to push the breastbone down 1/3 in depth.

Giving breaths

  • Give 2 breaths by tilting the head with a chin lift, pinch the nose, cover the injured person’s mouth with your own and breathe.
  • Only stop CPR if the person begins to breathe normally and is responsive, more qualified help arrives, or you are physically unable to continue.

If unwilling/unable to perform breaths, compression-only CPR is better than nothing.


A defibrillator is used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. If a defibrillator is available, apply the defibrillator and follow the voice prompts. Recommence CPR when prompted and continue until the injured person pushes you away or more qualified help arrives.

Moving a patient

Unless absolutely necessary, do not move a patient until aid arrives as it may lead to further injury. If the patient’s life is endangered, remove the person from the scene in the quickest and safest way, regardless of injuries or the manner of removal.

If head/neck/spinal injuries are suspected, support the head/neck in a neutral position before carefully moving. Remember, airway and breathing always take precedence.

Stay with the patient

If it is safe, stay with the injured person, and do not leave them alone. This is particularly important if they are in shock. If you are the only one on scene and need to get help, place a breathing unconscious person in the recovery position. This assists breathing. On your return, check airway and breathing and continue to monitor until aid arrives.

When the injured person is bleeding

To stop external bleeding:

  • apply direct pressure using available material (e.g. your hands or clothing)
  • if an arm or leg is bleeding, raise it to reduce blood flow to the area
  • if you have a cloth, use it to make a pad and cover the wound, then bandage it
  • never remove the original dressing as this will disturb the forming clot. If bleeding continues, put more pads over it
  • if pieces of metal, glass or wood are found in the wound apply pressure to surrounding areas but do not remove object. If a broken bone is protruding apply pressure to the wound edges only.

If the person is bleeding from the ear, lay them on their side (bleeding side down) with a pad under the ear. If bleeding from the nose, apply direct pressure on the soft lower part of the nostril, sit the casualty up and lean the head forward.

Rest and reassure the injured person

Do not make injuries worse by moving the person unnecessarily. Move the casualty if:

  • They are in danger, such as from fire or traffic
  • Their position makes it impossible to give first aid
  • They are unconscious and breathing and must be put in the recovery position

4.4 Emergency Vehicles

You can identify an emergency vehicle by its siren or its red and/or blue flashing lights. The vehicles used in emergencies are:

  • police cars
  • fire engines
  • ambulances
  • vehicles used to convey blood or supplies for urgent treatment

What should you do when there is an emergency vehicle in your immediate vicinity?

  • do not panic
  • check where the emergency vehicle is coming from and give way to it
  • move as far as to the left of the road if you can
  • if you cannot move left, slow down or stop to let them drive around you.

It is an offence not to give way to an emergency vehicle – look, listen and merge left.

Aggressive Driving or Behaviour

Aggressive driving includes the following types of behaviour:

  • person driving alongside you, shouting or making obscene gestures, pointing and demanding that you pull over
  • another vehicle following too closely (tailgating)
  • the driver in front slowing down in an attempt to force you to stop
  • a driver flashing headlights and/or sounding the horn continuously
  • a person getting out of a vehicle and approaching you in a threatening manner

Minimising risk

You can reduce the risk of being confronted by an aggressive driver if you:

  • drive in a courteous manner
  • are aware of what is happening around you
  • avoid cutting in front of others
  • slow down to allow a vehicle to move into your lane
  • do not follow the car in front too closely
  • keep well clear of a vehicle being driven in an unsafe way

Protecting yourself

If another driver acts aggressively or abusively, you should:

  • keep calm and remain in control
  • make sure your windows are up doors are locked
  • aim to distance yourself from the vehicle
  • if you are followed, drive to a police station or public place with people
  • record the number plate, colour, make and model of the driver’s vehicle
  • remain courteous and tolerant and try to diffuse the situation

Reporting aggressive driving or behaviour

If you witness an aggressive driving incident, call the police ASAP on 9222 1111.


Continue reading the Drive Safe: A Handbook for WA Road Users Summary:

1. Safe Driving

2. How to Obtain a WA Driver's Licence

3. Major Road Rules and Additional Safety Advice

4. Emergencies and Crashes

5. The Law and You

6. Cycle Safe

Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Learner's Test WA and get your learner permit (L plates):