The shock of the crash

When a serious road crash has caused a death or life-changing injury, its impact is devastating and far-reaching. Such a traumatic event happens so unexpectedly and people’s lives are disrupted as they try to make sense of what happened and find their way through the many consequences.

Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Early reactions
Shock, disbelief, and numbness are common first reactions when you first hear the terrible news, were involved in the crash, or witnessed what happened or were at the scene following the crash. If you have been seriously injured, reactions will begin once you are well enough to understand what has happened.

Everyone will react in their own way, but it’s common for people to experience some strong reactions.

People often feel:

  • it’s hard to take in, understand, or believe what’s happened
  • horrified, helpless, and powerless – things feel out of control
  • stunned, unable to feel anything, to think or speak
  • concerned for the safety of others involved   
  • extreme anger - if it appears the crash was caused by someone else
  • self-blame, guilt, angry at yourself – even if there was nothing you could have done
  • blamed or judged by others
  • pre-occupied with disturbing images and memories – real or imagined, troubled by nightmares or flashbacks, as if it were happening again
  • you want to have more time alone, away from others
  • anguish and anger by the senselessness of the crash
  • distress and grief, either due to injury or the death of someone in the crash.

Many people also suffer physical reactions, such as a tight chest, a racing heart, shakiness, nausea, body aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite, or crying.

These kinds of early reactions are all normal responses to a traumatic situation, but they can be hard to deal with at times. It may be a very up and down time for a while.

Other useful websites and information

Brake – a NZ road injury and bereavement charity


Coping with Trauma
When you are Grieving
Dealing with flashbacks