It seems many don't know what is involved with towing

Source USA Today:front page,Today. I had to get some more exposure to this story. An average of more than one person a day dies because a poorly connected trailer breaks away from the unit towing it.

Lets start stressing towing safety even more on CarTalk, this statistic is just horrible.

How sadly true.
Not covered in driver’s ed
yet NOT covered when purchasing the trailer !


My dad had the foresight to teach us teen learners the trailer because we had a camper our family used very often.
Once a neighbor rented one for a weekend, and came straight to dad to bone up on towing.

I’ll be doing the 500 mile boat tow this weekend. I was self taught as probably 99% of the other people that tow trailers are. Maybe another license classification is needed. I currently have car, motorcycle, truck license but why not a trailer license also? Not to demean the thought but that is less than 1% of annual traffic deaths, but it is a start.

I agree that towing and trailer inspection should be covered in driver’s ed. There should also be laws in every state requiring annual safety inspections of trailers. I have seen some scary looking trailers in my area, some of them dogtracking down the highway behind a pickup truck, the driver seemingly unaware of what is going on. Many states require this for cars (all should), so why not trailers? Most, if not all, of these failures are probably the result of worn or damaged trailers or ignorance on the driver’s part on how to hook it up. I taught myself how to deal with a trailer when I was a teenager, which is not the best way to do this, although I have never had a problem.

Can you provide a link to the story? I couldn’t find it on the USA Today web site.

Stepping on oldschools toes for you.

also a link for

forgive me bud.

it is on the front page of the print version,perhaps knowing the writer helps, by Larry Copeland USA Today writer.

There is a great need for some regulation of recreational towing.

Most logically, instruction.
The trailer license plate would only be issued upon proof of towing insruction.
And This could be a driver’s license class addendum just like your CDL and motorcycle.

“this statistic is just horrible.” considering more people die each day form other things an average of just over 1 a day with as many vehicles and people on the road every day is amazingly low. Just consider drowning, here is the count from 2007.
Unintentional Drowning: Fact Sheet
? In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging ten deaths per day.
Not to make light of the problem but there are much more dangerous things to worry about, and why this even made the USA Today speaks more to trying to get readers than to something actually news worthy. Must have been a really slow news day.

Sure there are examples of more people killed but last time I looked down the Interstate there were not dozens of swimming pools being towed, ready to come lose and drown my family, but there were numerous towed vehicles with the potential to break free of their hardware and hit me square between the eyes.

I have known two children that drown in pools, it was absouletly terrible, the families have never been the same (one child lived) I also knew a child that was 99% dead because he stuffed his face with cake donuts and beef jerky. A fireman had that 3 year old over his kneewhile bringing that same knee into the childs abdomen, he kneed him so hard that you thought this alone would kill him (Dad was beserk tearing everything in his path up,screeming how his son was dead, they were having a yard sale) but a huge blob of jerky and donut popped out and everybody lived. The horrible part to all these stories is that none of them needed to happen, it was not fate, but people not paying attention, with the kids, I was in no danger, with the towed vehicles,someone just may take me out.

I saw a trailer come lose and it hit the car in front of me, I stopped and took pictures (always carry a camera) and they were used to help assign fault.Can you imagine looking over into the other lane and seeing a trailer with a car on it comming towards you but no car controlling the trailer,pretty intense.

I agree that something should be done but I’m a bit undecided as to what the cure would be.
You could require that someone obtain a towing license but that may not mean much. They may be conscientous in front of an examiner and once the paper is issued it would be back to the same old carelessness. It would probably help to some extent though.

Just a few years ago a trailer came loose near here on I-35, crossed the median, and hit a car head-on. Killed 2 and injured a couple of others.

Another issue with trailers is speed. I can’t count how many times I’ve been running 75 on the Interstate and someone pulling a U-Haul will blow past me.
A few years ago while returning from TX on a stormy Sun. evening I was passed by several SUVs that were pulling U-Hauls. This occurred in the mountainous area of S. OK and this area is pitch black even in good weather. That night it was raining so hard I was struggling to even run 45 and these people blew around me at an estimated 75 MPH+.

My wife and I stopped in a restaurant until it eased up and later on we ran into a bunch of flashing lights and a 2 mile long traffic jam. Creeping by, we see one of those SUVs about a 150 feet off the roadway, where it had rolled over a barbed wire fence and scrub trees. It was unknown to us whether anyone was dead or not. We were praying there were no kids in that vehicle who were killed or injured by the driver’s stupidity.

Around here, I would say the biggest issue is no trailer lighting. There has been a number of accidents due to no lights at night and many are due to farmers and oil field companies who could care less if the trailers are lit up or not.

Basic safety checks should be part of the program. For a cdl if you did not check the tires etc. fail. I had to come to a quick stop once as a guy leaving the boat dealership had not secured the load, the wind caught the pontoon boat and flipped it off the trailer blocking a 2 lane 55 mph roadway. Had he known about the legal requirement for a safety strap that would not have happened. Five gallon buckets even have a warning lable for toddlers, but there is a world of possibilities for catastrophe. Like Einstein said "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. "

Just did a long camping trip this weekend…towing our pop-up. When I hook it up…I check and re-check…I have safety chains…trailer brakes…I’ve seen several people towing who haven’t a clue…I had to hook up this guys trailer once at a camp site. He didn’t even know how to put on the stabilizer bar.

Of those people that die because of a trailer breaks away…is it the driver or the guy behind him that the trailer hits.

Heck, sometimes it’s the oncoming, head on traffic that gets hit.

This may tilt advantages and disadvantages of motorhomes vs RV trailers toward motorhomes.

With more than one driver, a motorhome permits use of various facilities while going down the road including refrigerator, stove, a nap on the bed, a short walk around to limber up and the toilet. A trailer makes it easy to have a vehicle to drive locally while the trailer is parked and you have more choices of engines, Ford, Chevrolet etc., diesel or gasoline. We had a 26 foot class C motorhome, small enough to use as a car for local trips; fit almost anywhere a car could park.

Now it seems evident that a motorhome may be safer.

'Poorly connected trailer’
Man, this gets all the way down to bare-bones basics that people are ignoring.
Many post here asking about tow vehicle capabilities and I’ve seen no one wonder about their trailer’s capability.

  • Trailer ball size. Don’t guess, get it right or don’t tow.
    The cheapest assurance of proper towing is the investment in correct equipment.
    But most connection problems surface with the ‘‘one timers’’ and the ‘‘once a year-ers’’.
    Like people moving with a u-haul box or car trailer and Camper/boat seasonal renters.

  • Lock down the tongue ball latch , either with the big diaper pin or even a nut and bolt.

  • Pull forward and back a few feet to ‘seat’ the tongue latch, taking off any fore/aft pressure.If attaching on a forward incline, drive slowly to a level spot and check it again.
    ++++ this is probably the biggest deception of all +++++
    especially with the screw down type tongue latch. The trailer is rolled forward on the ball and the person cannot push the heavy trailer back the 1/2 inch it takes to remove the slack pressure. The latch SEEMS tight at the time so they just take off down the road.

  • safety chains. NOT some little dog leash chain but something that can take the weight.

Other towing issues abound but I think those are the biggest connection problems. Can you name more ?

Other towing problems created by the operator ;
—The loading of the trailer.

  • Box and flat bed trailers need to be loaded with 60% of the wieght forward of the axle, creating ‘tongue weight’.
    Too many solo operators want to be able to lift the tounge instead of investing in a proper tongue jack.
    How many flat bed trailers full of furniture have I seen BOUNCING down the road, flexing the frame at front and back like a porpoise.

  • towing the trailer LEVEL.
    Here’s another ‘invest in the right equipment’ mistake. The trailer ball insert can be purchased to raise or lower the trailer tongue for the trailer to be towed level/parallel to the road.

-learning how to correct trailer sway/fish tailing
Step one ; see above.
Proper load distribution and level towing will all but eliminate trailer sway.
Then one must practice the art of NOT braking and turning into the arc of the fishtail to bring it back under control.

  • trailer brakes.
    If the trailer has them, your tow vehicle should be outfitted to operate them.

  • Learning how to back up/reverse with a trailer.
    another big one. Too many one timers and seasonals have no clue. I have been told to my face that they’re just going to plan to always be able to pull forward during this trip. ( Yah right, and this is the major clue about how musch else they don’t know…see above )

-’‘haste makes waste’'
Ssslllooowww down.
When hooking up in a hurry you’ll forget/overlook something.
When driving, you’ve got a lot more going on here. Drive like you’re riding a whale, smooth and easy.

I’m sure youall would love to add to this list so that we might share with those who need to know.
Even the best of us get fooled by the trailer resting forward against the ball when latching it down.

As an object lesson, I have a story to tell. I was on an LA freeway cruising along with the flow of traffic when I saw plaster debris fly across the lane in front of me. As I passed a truck blocking my view, I saw a pickup truck with a loose plaster mixer. The mixer had the truck by the tail with its safety chain and swung it around a couple of times. The truck did not overturn but the driver sure got an interesting ride. BTW, I did not get caught up in the excitement. The driver obviously got sloppy with the hitch.

One older friend of mine that knows all about towing and loading trailers has a reputation for overloading his trailer. On a trip back to WI. the frame of the trailer cracked up close to the ball (big crack) we waited in the parking lot of a Luvs for about 10 min and a guy with an industrial size welder in the back of his rig pulled up, this friend does not deserve such luck. One season gathering wood the trailer was so overloaded all the tires popped, that was an all dayer.

I drove a Bobcat skid steer up into the back of a dump trailer and I had forgotten to pin the dump bed, just about killed me.I felt like Alan Shepard sitting on a Redstone rocket ,looking straight up into the wild blue, then everything came crashing down.