Road Safety & Safeguarding Accident Scenes

Safeguarding Accident ScenesWhat are the most important aspects to consider when safeguarding an accident scene?

How do we warn other road users of an accident scene and how do we protect our accident victims and emergency personnel from further harm?

[DU MÉTIER has kindly made available information on how to safeguard accident scenes.

Please note that this material may not be copied without prior written authorization from Du Metier]

Procedure for safeguarding/ securing accident scenes

  • Erect warning signs to warn oncoming traffic as soon as possible about the collision.
  • Appoint persons to warn and regulate oncoming traffic.
  • Erect cones to change the direction of oncoming traffic.
  • Wear reflective clothing to ensure that you are clearly visible to oncoming traffic.  (Persons on the scene, as well as persons, appointed.)
  • Remove unwanted persons and vehicles from the scene because theft could take place.  Fire and collision hazards may be created or increased.  Important evidence can possibly be destroyed.
  • Make sure that the engine of an overturned vehicle is not running.  Fire hazards are higher with running engines.
  • You must never think yourself safe although you took every possible precaution.\
  • If persons are arrested, they must be searched for any firearms or weapons. (Applies to law officers)

Warning Zone

  • This is the first zone for approaching road users.
  • The first warning is a flare or the Accident Ahead triangular traffic sign.
  • The prescribed distance after this you will park your vehicle off the road and at an angle. This has a dual purpose in that it identifies your vehicle (who is at the scene) and at night you can use the vehicle's lights in illuminating the traffic cones to make it more visible.
  • The rotating lights should always be on whether it is day or night.

Direction change zone 

  • This is the second zone for approaching road users.
  • This zone is used to deflect approaching traffic away from the danger and the people in the scene. 
  • This, however, should not be a danger to the road user and it should be easy for him to understand where he should drive.
  • This is also used to reduce the speed of the vehicles to a manageable speed where if an emergency situation is provoked the road user will have enough time to react properly.
  • Cones are put out at regular intervals over the lanes (as seen in the illustrations) to change the direction of the vehicles. 
  • Check the prescribed distance.

Buffer Zones

  • This is the third and sixth zone for approaching road users and after the collision scene.
  • The name is self-explanatory 
  • The prescribed distance of a buffer zone will depend on the area available at the scene and the necessity thereof.

Work Zone

  • This is the fourth zone for approaching road users.
  • This zone is mostly used by emergency personnel for placing their equipment.
  • The injured will also be treated in this area before being loaded into ambulances. 
  • The prescribed distance of a work zone will depend on the area available at the scene and the necessity thereof.

Collision Scene

  • This is the fifth zone for approaching road users.
  • Most of the investigator's work will be done in this zone, but his work is not limited to this zone.
  • This zone will contain most of the physical evidence.

Parking Zone

  • This is the seventh zone for approaching road users.
  • Not contrary to the Road Traffic Law.
  • It must not cause danger or an obstruction.
  • Traffic must be allowed to keep on flowing.
  • Warning signs must be placed out.
  • The rotating light on the roof must be switched on (day or night).
  • Do everything possible to warn oncoming traffic.


The following illustrations describe most types of accident scenes.
This is the basics in safeguarding and should be your minimum requirements.







Prescribed Distances

The length of these zones must be seen as minimum guidelines.  The actual length will be influenced by the practical situation.  It is possible that there is a stop-sign controlled intersection close to the accident scene.  The vehicles will, therefore, come to complete standstill before the scene.  The warning sign can then be placed at the intersection and the direction change zone can be set up in the shortened distance.
At a blind rise or curve, the zones can be lengthened to ensure the safety of the public and those working on the scene.  This is in the case where it is practically possible. On a road where a back-up of traffic occurs, the warning should be moved back accordingly. It is therefore important to monitor the situation on a continues basis.
The following diagram shows the minimum distances that should be used in the relative road conditions and speed limits.

Speed limit(km/h)

Warning Zone


Direction change zone


Buffer Zone

(C + E)

Work Zone



190 – 200 m

100 m

10-30 m

10-30 m


120 – 130 m

80 m

10-20 m

10-20 m


70 – 80 m

60 m

5-20 m

5-20 m


40 – 50 m

40 m

5-10 m

5-10 m



Also view

Road Safety and Accident Scene Safety 

Clearing the Scene of a Road Crash

In Case of an Accident

Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Accident Scene Safety and Paramedics