Camping and Boating Season is in Full Swing, Tow The Right Way To Avoid Accidents
The warm Michigan weather is finally here! And as many begin to gear up for summer vacation, many Michigan residents and visitors alike will be traveling to their favorite camping spot or fishing lake with a load in tow. Unfortunately, researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have reported that over 1000 people were killed in traffic accidents during the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day making it one of the deadliest times of the year to be traveling on American roadways. Add the improper towing of a recreational vehicle to the hazardous accident-prone season and you have both a car accident and personal injury case waiting to happen.
Learn to Tow The Right Way
Since the late 1990s, an alarming half million people have been injured across the U.S. in towing-related collisions. Statistics also show that more than 700,000 tow vehicles, including campers, boats and other kinds of trailers, have been completely totaled as a result of towing wreck.
- Know What Your Vehicle Is Made To Tow
Be sure you know the tow rating for your vehicle. Do this before you travel or purchase a new camper or boat. Your vehicle will only be able to haul a certain amount of weight. If you overload your tow vehicle, you could soon be dealing with alternative issues that trigger roadway accidents and an overheated transmission, failing brakes, loose or broken suspensions, or blown-out tires. You can find your tow vehicle’s specs listed in your owner’s manual and usually on your driver’s-side door.
Once you know your towing specs, you can bring them with you to purchase the appropriate hitch. Hitches are split into five classes based on weight:
Class 1: 2000 pounds gross trailer weight/200 pounds tongue weight
Class 2: 3500 pounds gross trailer weight/350 pounds tongue weight
Class 3: 5000 pounds gross trailer weight/500 pounds tongue weight
Class 4: 7500 pounds gross trailer weight/750 pounds tongue weight
Class 5: 10,000 pounds gross trailer weight/1000 pounds tongue weight
- Look Up Your Local and Statewide Towing Regulations
States differ on their maximum towing speeds, the maximum trailer width, and the number of vehicles a driver is allowed to tow. So be sure to know the laws, not just here in Michigan, but for any state you might be traveling through. Knowing about what is required for trailers vs. fishing boats, taillights, safety chains, extra mirrors, or braking equipment can help not only save you from causing an accident but also an expensive ticket. These laws and regulations can vary from state to state so make sure you are aware of them before you set off on your adventure.
- Prep and Hook Up Safety
Whenever you hook up the trailer or boat, you will want to prepare a precheck to make sure that all things are working. You can do this without making four trips up to the cab and toggling on all the turn signals and brake lights in succession. Turn on the parking lamps and the hazard flashers. Walk to the back of the trailer and make sure both the parking lamps and flashers are on. If so, you’ve got turn signals and brake lights, because they’re the same filaments as the hazards. This assumes, of course, that your towing vehicle’s brake lights are working. As you are checking lights, make sure you have checked and double-checked the trailer-wiring harness. This “industry standard” plug and socket wiring is done with a color-coded scheme. This should make it easy to install the connector properly to the tow vehicle’s harness. Next, when you hook up your camper or boat, always be sure to cross the chains the right way since they will serve as an extra safety measure and a last effort if the tongue loses grip on the ball of the hitch. Chains will also keep the trailer from vaulting the guardrail into oncoming traffic or something equally tragic. Keep the chains wet with dielectric grease to prevent corrosion.
- Use Your Brakes To Control Speed
A controlled driving speed will be greatly reduced once you add the weight a trailer can put on your vehicle but trailer brakes can help control the speed. Trailer brakes are required by federal law to allow travelers behind you to see the lights on your tow load since your vehicle lights will likely be unnoticeable. Don’t forget to check your break battery as well. Faulty wiring or lengthy storage can drain the battery without you knowing. If that brake battery is out — no one will see you braking and a crash may be unavoidable.
- Can You See Behind and Around Your Towed Load?
Topping the list of towing accident causes is the limited visibility out the rear since a trailer’s size that easily reduces visibility and increases the odds of being involved in a serious accident or even death. Consider purchasing some mirror extenders. These can provide an added precaution and visibility option for safely changing lanes and going in reverse. If you aren’t confident driving or making a driving decision because of reduced visibility, you should rethink your liability responsibilities in operating a tow vehicle on a roadway. Your lack of confidence could cause you to make a poorly judged driving decision and cause a deadly wreck.
- Check Your Tires
Driving a fully loaded trailer or boat with underinflated tires can be extremely dangerous. Tire blowouts are easily a top cause for tragic summer roadway accidents like rollovers. Underinflated tires produce more friction and heat, which can lead to blow-outs. So be sure to check the tire pressure on both your tow vehicle and your trailer or fishing boat hauler before hitting the road since it is likely they have probably been sitting all winter. When you do inflate the tires, do so to the trailer manufacturer’s maximum recommended cold pressure. Heat is a tire’s enemy, and a properly inflated tire will run cooler. Light-duty trailers have smaller tires and the tiny outside diameter means they spin faster and could overheat the tires or wheel bearings on a hot summer day. Keep your tires maintained and everything should remain in balance.
Contact Us Now About Your Towing Accident
If you have been involved in a summer towing wreck know that working with insurance companies to ensure you get the compensation you deserve may be frustrating and confusing. The Law Offices of Lee Steinberg can help. Please call Lee Free and speak to our car accident attorneys at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form. And remember, you pay nothing until we settle your car accident case.