How grey nomads can minimise the risk of accidents when towing a caravan

With caravan accidents still happening on a worryingly regular basis, the Queensland Police has issued important advice to those hitting the road with a van in tow.

Almost half of all crashes in 2020 and 2021 involving a vehicle towing a caravan and deemed to be at fault, were caused by either the caravan or tow vehicle losing control.

It’s a statistic that prompted police to educate drivers on how to manage their tow weights (both car and caravan) effectively for a safer drive.

Knowing the limits of your vehicle is important. It can have real consequences for you, your passengers and other road users.

Caravan towing advice

Here are some tips and advice:

A common mistake drivers make is not knowing how much they can tow.

We often see vehicle manufacturers advertise a certain towing capacity for their vehicles that can give drivers a false sense of security.

Just because a vehicle manufacturer states a vehicle can tow 3.5 tonne, it does not necessarily mean that vehicle, fully loaded with passengers, fuel and luggage, can still tow 3.5 tonne.

It is important to remember that weights often include a fully fuelled car, passengers, a fully loaded caravan, as well as extras on the vehicle such as bull bars, roof racks and aftermarket tyres.

These can add up quickly and easily push your load over the weight limit for your vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) or your combination’s Gross Combination Mass (GCM).

When this happens, the consequences can be serious for you, your passengers, your caravan and other road users.

Know your load.

understanding caravan weight distribution

When travelling with a poorly distributed load, your caravan may begin to sway or ‘snake’ which can lead to a crash.

If faced with this, it is important to:
• Remain calm and avoid the urge to apply the towing vehicle’s brakes
• Try not to steer out of the sway / snake
• Continue at your current speed or if safe to do so, accelerate slightly and apply the caravan’s electric brakes using your electric brake controller
• By applying the caravan’s electric brakes, the caravan will slow and pull it back in line with the tow vehicle

When the sway has been corrected, slow down and pull off the road. When safe to do so, check your load is distributed correctly before you start driving again.

Towing is very different to driving.

towing tips

Apart from your normal driving responsibilities, towing requires a greater degree of knowledge and skill than normal driving.

The additional weight of a caravan or trailer can have a significant impact on the way your vehicle handles on the road.

Police commonly see crashes occur when a caravan merges or changes lane and clips the front of a car travelling behind it.

Being aware of the length of your trailer is important. This includes having additional mirrors to see the full length of your car and trailer so crashes like these don’t occur. Drivers must be able to see down the full length of your vehicle and caravan.

Simply having a camera on the rear of the caravan is not sufficient and may result in enforcement action being taken.

It is suggested that before heading out on the road and towing a caravan, drivers should consider undertaking a towing course which are offered by various agencies.

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