Tow safely this summer

Towing a caravan
Towing a caravan

Road safety charity the IAM is reminding motorists to ensure their vehicles and trailers are road worthy as they take out their trailers this summer. The warning comes as figures from the Highways Agency show that between April and June 2013 alone, there have been 1,408 towing incidents on the UK’s roads.

The Highways Agency has warned that towing incidents are often caused by overloading the caravan or trailer, a mismatch with the towing vehicle, tyres which have burst because they have not been checked or replaced where needed, and poor towing technique from drivers such as excessive speed.

Tim Shallcross, head of technical policy and advice at the IAM offers tips for successfully towing another vehicle:

Watch the weight of the towed vehicle – this should not exceed 85 per cent of the car’s kerb weight. Excess weight will cause instability.

Check the unit you are towing is secure before pulling away, and check again after a short distance. Look for anything loose, disconnected, missing or broken.

Check that your extra rear lights are all connected and fully functional. Get somebody to help while you test the brakes and indicators. As well as additional lights, you will also need an illuminated number plate at the rear of the unit.

Check the pressure of all tyres before you set off, bearing in mind those of the towed unit as well as your own vehicle.

Stopping distances and the space between you and other vehicles should be increased appropriately, allowing for the extra weight you are carrying. You should also allocate more time to overtaking, to position yourself for turns, parking, pulling into traffic streams, changing lanes and joining and leaving motorways.

Use your mirrors frequently - the fact you have lost the use of your rear view mirror makes extended door mirrors very useful. Extended towing mirrors are not a legal requirement, but drivers are obliged to be able to see traffic behind them, so the use of mirrors is encouraged for caravans and anything but a small trailer. Mirrors will also give you a better feel for overtaking and reversing.

Be aware that reduced speed limits usually apply when towing vehicles, and remember to extend courtesy to vehicles following you by allowing them to pass.

Shallcross said: “Whether you’re towing a speedboat, a horsebox, a caravan or another car, there are certain rules which must be applied. It is important to recognise the challenges which come with having to control not just one vehicle, but two.”

Technical manager for the Caravan Club Martin Spencer said: “Check the caravan’s tyre pressures and tyre condition before setting off. Unlike in the car, you’re unlikely to feel a slow puncture on the caravan, so regular checks are essential. It’s also important to load your caravan correctly and within its limits.”

Andy Withington, spokesperson for the Highways Agency said: “Our Traffic Officers and contractors are out on our roads every day and see at first hand how incidents involving caravans and other towed vehicles can contribute to delays for other road users.

“While the vast majority of towed vehicles travel safely we would encourage anyone towing during the holiday season to prepare before they set out and take a few simple steps once they are out on the road to avoid becoming involved in an incident. Check your tyres, make sure that caravans and trailers are not overloaded, keep to the speed limit for towed vehicles, ensure any rear view extension mirrors are fitted and drive carefully and considerately at this busy time of year.”