In preparation for the summer getaway, Highways England is urging drivers who are planning to tow to ensure they have the correct licence and insurance, and their vehicle and load are connected correctly and securely.
There are around 4,000 incidents in England every year involving all forms of trailers, which equates to around 11 per day.
“Thankfully incidents are very rare but now is the time to remind motorists of the need to make sure you have carried out proper checks and have loaded the trailer or vehicle correctly,” said Highways England’s Strategic Road Safety Lead Stuart Lovatt. “We have all sorts travelling on our network including horse boxes, trailer tents and leisure vehicles such as boats and caravans. Our message is really simple, check it before towing it. So that everyone gets home, safe and well.
Highways England says common reasons for towing-related incidents include:
- poorly loaded vehicles (weight in the wrong place – e.g. towards the rear, rather than concentrated in the middle)
- overloaded vehicles (too much weight, although often that will also result in bad loading)
- insufficient nose weight – can cause the trailer to sway if the stability is upset by an external factor and may get out of control if not addressed
- caravan too heavy for the tow car’s capability to control it
- speed too high / driving too fast for the road conditions
- really serious crosswinds causing instability to the vehicle
Highways England’s tips for drivers:
- Reduce the risk of inherent instability by making sure the outfit is correctly matched (car suitable for the caravan or trailer load) and that it’s correctly loaded, including very importantly that the nose weight is sufficient.
- Choose a car and caravan/trailer with stability aids, but don’t rely on them to correct an inherently unstable outfit. They will, however, make a safe outfit safer still.
- Drive within the speed limits for towing – 60mph on a motorway unless signage state slower. Take particular care when going downhill and/or overtaking to ensure that speed does not build up excessively.
- Reduce speed if conditions are not favourable (e.g. crosswind). *When passing or being passed by large vehicles, maximise the separation between themselves and the caravan/trailer by using the available lane width (with due regard for vehicles in other lanes).
- If instability still occurs, do not brake, but instead ease off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop. Let the steering wheel twitch; do not try to steer against the motion of the car. Do not try to accelerate, to ‘pull the outfit straight’. This is likely to result in the return of instability at an even greater speed.
- Following an instability scare, check all possible contributory factors, and address any which are not optimum to ensure no re-occurrence.