Towing a trailer may seem pretty straightforward, but it can be one of the most frustrating experiences imaginable for a motorist who is inexperienced and not ready. If you haven’t towed before and you’re preparing to tow a trailer in the future, you should be aware of a few things before you get behind the wheel. A little bit of practice and preparation can go a long way towards preventing a costly and possibly dangerous mistake on the road. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your experience with towing is a good one.
Beware of Overhead Hazards – One of the most common accidents involving trailers has to do with overhead obstacles. Many trailers are considerably taller than the vehicles that are towing them, and it can be easy to come into contact with a low bridge or overhang without expecting it. Professional truck drivers are trained specifically to spot overhead hazards to avoid these types of accidents and you should keep that in mind at all times. Especially if you are towing a boat, RV or other tall vehicle, you’re going to have to be extra vigilant in order to keep from damaging your trailer or other property. Don’t hesitate to stop and check any low clearance area before passing through. It’s much better to safely stop your vehicle and have someone “spot” as you pass underneath than to risk it. Don’t be afraid of inconveniencing other motorists. You’ll hold up a lot more traffic if you’re stuck on an overhead hazard, than you would have if you simply stopped to check first.
Backing Up – Reversing a trailer may well be one of the most difficult things to master behind the wheel. Be prepared for this and get plenty of practice before putting yourself in a situation where accurate backing is essential. The way a trailer moves when backing is very counter-intuitive and can be quite vexing. It’s a good idea to set up a practice course in an open area when you first pick up the trailer so you can get a feel for how it is going to move when you back up. Otherwise you may find yourself struggling to maneuver a vehicle you can’t control properly. Once again, a little practice can go a long way towards preventing a disastrous situation.
Adverse Conditions – Controlling a towed vehicle under adverse weather conditions is more difficult still. Professional truck drivers attend hundreds of hours of classes and supervised practice to be able to manage the unpredictable nature of towing in adverse weather. If you are just beginning at towing and you encounter adverse weather conditions such as high winds, heavy rain, snow or ice, it might be a good idea to simply pull over and wait for things to improve. Even if it costs you a night in a hotel, that is probably a lot less costly than an accident that damages property or worse. If you must venture to tow your vehicle in poor weather conditions, make sure attention to detail and safety is your #1 goal. It’s better to be a bit timid and avoid an accident, than to be bold and cause one.