The next installment in our on-going “Road Safety 101: A Weekly Guide
to Staying Safe on the Road” blog series discusses how to drive
a vehicle with a trailer attached. During the hot summer months, it is
not uncommon for people to drive with trailers carrying boats, ATVs,
motorcycles, horses, livestock, or other animals and vehicles.
While these trailers may be a relatively easy way to transport other vehicles,
driving with a trailer attached can be dangerous, and can pose a
serious risk of accidents. Knowing how to drive with a trailer attached, before your head out on
your vacation or a long distance, can significantly reduce your chances of
being involved in an accident which causes serious injury or losses.
Check Your Connections
One of the first steps you need to take before traveling with a trailer
attached to your vehicle is to make sure the trailer you are planning
to haul is safely connected to the hitch, the locking mechanism is locked
in place, the cables connecting the brake lights and signals are all secure,
and the lights are functioning correctly. If the connections are not properly
secured, your trailer could become dislodged en route, which would put
any vehicles traveling behind you in extreme danger. Cables that are not
connected correctly could cause the brake lights on your trailer to fail,
thus increase the chances of another vehicle rear-ending you. You should
verify your load does not exceed weight capacities for your vehicle or
the trailer itself, and that the weight is distributed properly.
How to Drive Around with a Trailer
Driving around with a trailer is far different than ordinary road travel.
You have to know how long your trailer is, how long your vehicle and trailer
are combined, and your trailer’s height so you can avoid hitting
bridges or traveling on roads that are not rated for your load.
It is also important you take the time to hone your trailer-driving skills
before heading out on the road. Go to an empty parking lot or other wide
open rea to practice actions such as maneuvering turns and backing up.
When you want the trailer to turn right while backing up, you will need
to turn the must be to be sure you have enough room to clear poles and
other obstacles along the side of the road. If you try to cut a corner
too close, you risk hitting pedestrians, other vehicles and stationary objects.
Being Respectful of Animals On Board
If you are transporting animals like horses or livestock in a trailer behind
your vehicle, it is important you be respectful of the animals you have
on board. Animals can exhibit signs of heightened stress levels when traveling
in trailers, and are more at risk of suffering injury when going over
bumps, traveling along unpaved roads and when it is necessary for a driver
to come to a quick stop. You can reduce the chances of your animals sustaining
injury by slowing down, taking turns cautiously and doing all you can
to avoid hazardous or uneven road conditions.
Necessary Braking Distance
While drivers who are towing a trailer should always travel at a reduced
rate of speed, drivers need to make sure they know the braking distance
necessary to come to a stop. Your vehicle, on its own, can stop much faster
and more easily than when a trailer is attached. Due to this fact, you
will need to keep more distance between you and the vehicle in front of
you so you have sufficient time to come to a stop. According to
Trucking Truth, a good rule of thumb is to leave one second distance for every ten feet
of vehicle while traveling under 40 mph. When traveling above 40 mph it
is best to give an additional second. These numbers are accounting for
perfect weather and road conditions, if it is raining, snowing, or there
are any other non-optimal driving conditions be sure to give yourself
extra space. Slamming on the brakes could cause your trailer to skid,
slide or jackknife, according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you are worried about the strain braking may put on your vehicle when
traveling with a trailer attached, consider trailer brakes, which can
be used to assist with braking.
AAA notes that Michigan law requires the use of independent braking systems if the
gross weight of the trailer and its cargo exceeds 3,000 pounds.