A motorist in northern China survived after being impaled through the skull by a metal pole in a car crash.

The accident happened on Monday (23 January) in Changchun, Jilin, when the 46-year-old man had to brake suddenly and swerve to avoid hitting another vehicle, crashing into a pile of construction poles, the South China Morning Press reported.

Three poles penetrated the vehicle, impaling the driver through his skull, knee and leg.

The bar that went through the driver's head penetrated the skull through the right forehead, and exited through the back of the skull, according to Chinajialin.com.

Rescue workers had to cut through the bars to free the man, taking care not to cause further injuries in an operation that took nearly 20 minutes.

The man underwent emergency surgery on Monday. His current condition is unknown.

The man's father, wife, son and another child were also in the car at the time of the crash but were not seriously injured, according to reports.

It is not the first time a driver in China has narrowly escaped death after being impaled – a driver in central Hubei province was seriously injured in July 2015 when a metal bar penetrated his chest centimetres from the heart.