Towing your way to your favourite staycation: caravan tips from IAM RoadSmart
Many holidaymakers have had to ditch a trip abroad and opt for outdoor staycations this year, so there will be more people than ever dusting off their caravan and packing for a summer getaway.
Going away with the whole family and the caravan, trailer tent or camping trailer is a great experience. By ensuring you load the caravan or trailer correctly, and deal appropriately with other traffic, you can help ease the stress levels, especially if you lack towing experience.
Small beach towns across are proving to be a very popular place to visit after people have spent months being cooped up indoors. IAM RoadSmart are encouraging all caravan and trailer road users to carry out a series of checks before heading off on their first summer outing.
Most collisions happen around the weekend. Nearly a third of all incidents occur on Saturdays and Sundays, with Mondays and Fridays not too far behind.
Before you start your trip you have checked both your car and caravan or trailer? Especially check your tyres as they should be inflated to the correct pressure, have a good amount of tread (no lower than 1.6mm) and be free from damage
The caravan breakaway cable (or safety chain on smaller unbraked trailers) should be in good condition and connected correctly. If you have a caravan or a large box-shaped trailer you will almost always need to fit extension mirrors – these will help make sure you have a good view behind you and comply with the law
Remember when loading your caravan or trailer to make sure it is not overloaded as this can put you at additional risk of instability, and mean you’re breaking the law. Ensure your heavy items are positioned correctly over the axle, low to the floor with lighter items higher up
A quick refresher of the Rules of the Road will remind you that travelling in the right-hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes is not allowed and your speed limit when towing is 100 kp/h on dual carriageways and motorways and 80 kp/h on single carriageways, unless a lower overall limit is applies
Be extra vigilant on downhill stretches as your speed can easily creep up and get too high – this is a common contributory factor to your caravan/trailer losing stability. Remember, you will need more room to stop when towing and you should always have a big enough gap to be able to slow down and stop in an emergency
Towing in high winds needs additional care and perhaps a change of route should be considered. However it’s not just windy days you need to be mindful of. Overtaking large vehicles can place you in their “bow wave” and this can cause instability of caravans which are badly loaded and/or being towed too fast.
Martin Spencer, technical manager at the Caravan and Motorhome Club says: “Towing a caravan or other trailer can be unfamiliar, but doesn’t need to be intimidating. By getting the basic set-up right, then following straightforward advice over issues such as speed and safety around other vehicles, towing can be relaxed, easy and comfortable. Above all, it will be safe.
“In almost all cases, serious incidents only occur because inexperienced drivers have not taken the right advice, or experienced ones have become complacent. The Club has 15 training centres across the country so anyone just starting out, or those needing some refresher training can receive the best possible guidance.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart says: “The advanced driving skills of observation, anticipation and planning are key to good towing. They will keep you a safe distance from the vehicle in front and help you predict problems ahead and around you. If you prepare yourself, your family and your vehicles for the road ahead your trip will be as relaxing as possible.”