#SARoadTrip: Safe towing during the holidays

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 READY TO TOW?Make sure all the components of the vehicle being towed and the coupler, hitch and other parts are in working condition before you set off on your journey. Image: ~ iStock

Cape Town - Thousands of families will be travelling across South Africa during the 2015/16 holiday period.

Many of road users will be transporting a caravan, trailer or boat on SA's roads.

The Automobile Association (AA) said: “Towing another vehicle requires extra attention from the driver. Apart from ensuring the towing vehicle is safe and in a good condition, the vehicle that is being towed also needs to be roadworthy and capable of making the journey. It’s also important that drivers follow the rules of the road and tow responsibly.”

Vehicles checks

Before setting off all the components of the towed vehicle need to be checked to ensure they are in working condition. This includes the hitch, the coupler, and safety chain and light systems. If any of these components are not working, they should be repaired or replaced before setting off.

They are there for a reason and driving with defective parts may lead to serious consequences. If you are in any doubt as to the condition of the vehicle you will be towing, speak to an expert.

The AA warned: “Many people also inadvertently overload their trailers in an effort to take as much with them on their holiday. Resist this temptation and take only what you need. Overloading a trailer beyond its size and weight capacity may cause problems with braking or even damage the engine and suspension of the towing vehicle.”

Weight distribution

The AA said drivers must ensure that trailers are balanced properly with even weight distribution in the trailer. The centre of gravity of the trailer is towards the front of the trailer but don’t overload this either, as this will put too much pressure on the tongue of the trailer and may cause problems.

Rather distribute the contents of the trailer evenly on both sides with a little more weight packed into the front section. If you are in any doubt as to trailer capacity or the car’s towing limits, consult the manufacturer’s handbook or contact your dealer.

The trailer, or any other vehicle being towed, and the road behind, should also always be visible to the driver. Extra side mirrors may be needed that extend to give a good view. Also give extra attention to overtaking (especially on hills and gradients), remembering that you have an extra load that must also pass the vehicle in front. And, don’t forget, the extra weight will require more distance and time to stop.

The AA said: “Most important is to ensure you are driving safely on any road. Obey the speed limits, use your indicators when you need to, and be sure when you are overtaking that it is legal to do so and the road ahead is clear. Remember that your family’s safety is more important than reaching your destination an hour early,”

Apart from this, the AA said it is important that drivers take a break every two hours or 200km and that they are sufficiently alert to operate both vehicles they have control over.