New Virginia Law Effective July 1 Highlights Importance of Trailer Safety

Runaway Trailer Accidents Caused over 15,000 Deaths since 1975 – Most Were Preventable

RICHMOND, Va.--()--Summer begins this week, and many families are towing their boats and campers to their favorite lake or campsite. Unfortunately, this fun, carefree scenario can become dangerous when folks are not aware of the basics of trailer safety. Since 1988, over 400 people have died every year on America’s roads in trailer separation accidents, with the most common occurrence involving innocent victims, when a trailer detaching from a vehicle becomes a missile directed towards an on-coming vehicle. The results are devastating. Even more unsettling is that the injuries, lost lives and property damage caused by poor safety connections between trailers and passenger cars are totally preventable.

The State of Virginia has called attention to this dangerous situation and enacted the strictest law in the nation aimed at preventing accidental separation. Beginning July 1 Virginia law enforcement officers will be handing out $250 fines if the hundreds of thousands of trailer owners in Virginia – including boat trailers, utility trailers, camper trailers, ATV trailers and more – do not have the proper safety connections.

“We have been working to get this law enacted in Virginia since 2004,” says longtime trailer safety advocate and Virginian Ron Melancon of www.dangeroustrailers.org. “And with the passage of this bill Virginia is now the model state for trailer safety. We are very appreciative to State Senator John C. Watkins for listening and sponsoring this life-saving legislation.”

A 2006 study by Master Lock shows that most Americans who tow are ill-informed on safe towing practices.

According to trailer safety device expert Karl Pratt -- who was instrumental in helping Melancon effect the current law and agrees that lack of education and understanding about trailer hitch safety is the key cause of accidents -- there are several basic questions you can ask to make sure your trailer connection is secure and permit you to address any dangers before it's too late. Here are the basic trailer connection questions as identified by Pratt, who is the inventor/founder of Safety Sentry Inc. (www.safetysentryinc.com), a hitch lock safety device that prevents accidental separation of utility trailers from towing vehicles in virtually all circumstances.

  • Are you thoroughly familiar with your equipment? Is your vehicle and hitch setup able to pull the size of the trailer you have and tow the weight you are carrying? Have you properly distributed the weight of your load inside your trailer? Do you understand the responsible speed you should travel when towing specific weights?
  • What is the condition of your equipment? Is it getting old? Tweaks and bends in hitches can be signs of stress and potential failure. Trailer balls should be smooth, and scored or rusty balls should be replaced as they will cause excessive wear.
  • Are you aware that hitch balls come in three different sizes and that the balls must be the right size for the coupler on the trailer you are towing? If you connect a 2-inch ball with a 2-5/16 inch coupler, it may stay connected – or it may fly off when you hit a pothole or a big bump in the road.
  • Do you know how to connect your safety chains properly? Are yours the right length and correct gauge? If they are too long or too light, your safety chains will be useless to prevent an accident if for some reason the trailer becomes detached. When connected, safety chains should have some slack to permit sharp turns but should not drag on the road. In addition, the chains should crisscross under the trailer. This helps prevent the trailer from dropping to the road by cradling the coupler, in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle.

Trailer towing is safe when precautions are taken. Based on his own experience when his trailer became separated on a bumpy road, Pratt advocates a secondary safety device for added protection and peace of mind.

A secondary device is inexpensive added insurance, he says, that can prevent detachment even if the ball doesn’t fit the coupler properly, the safety chains fail, and the coupler locking device is faulty or not locked.

“Irrespective of proper use of chains [which are already mandated in many localities], all trailer towing configurations would benefit from, and should have, a secondary safety device,” concurs

Pennsylvania safety inspection expert Bernie Elder of Compuspections whose firm has decades of experience in inspecting trailers.

Both Pratt and Melancon agree that with more safety awareness and tougher legislation in other states, all too common runaway trailer accidents should decrease dramatically.

“The solution is readily available right now,” says Melancon. “Every loose trailer accident, every death caused by trailers that separate while driving, is preventable right now.”

Contacts

Stephen Koenigsberg Public Relations
Stephen Koenigsberg, 303-861-3030
steve@koenigsbergpr.com

Contacts

Stephen Koenigsberg Public Relations
Stephen Koenigsberg, 303-861-3030
steve@koenigsbergpr.com