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Taking it Easy on the Open Road: Safe Practices for Drivers Towing Trailers

Feb 3, 2008
As you prepare to head out on the open road, you'll probably do a good job of hooking up your RV or trailer correctly. You'll probably check and re-check everything to make sure it doesn't fall apart on you. Most people don't realize the majority of towing accidents don't result from improper hookups - they result from improper towing practices.

How many of you have ever used, or even considered buying towing mirrors? If you've ever been behind the wheel of a bigger vehicle you know how crucial having the right mirrors, and setting them up properly. Many people do this wrong.

Your biggest priority is maximizing visibility. If you're driving a normal vehicle, you can always just turn your head and look over your shoulder to see the hazards around you. Other than turning your head, you can always use your rear-view mirrors.

If you're pulling a huge 5th wheel, turning your head or simply glancing over your shoulder isn't going to be sufficient. You don't have that advantage with a large vehicle. Your side mirrors are your only option. They have to be set correctly so they'll do the most good.

My personal preference is to set the left mirror to point directly back of the vehicle. By setting it up that way, I ensure that the right side of that mirror view follows the left edge of the vehicle I'm driving and the trailer I'm towing. That's where most traffic I'm concerned with will be. This mirror setting also gives me an early view of traffic coming from a long distance behind me.

I like to make sure the right side mirror is set to show the right side of the trailer. I also make sure to angle the mirror down so I have a decent view of the right curb when I'm parking. There isn't going to be as much traffic approaching from my right side (because I generally drive in the right lane). That's why the curb view is my bigger concern for the right mirror.

Understand my perspective on why the right curb view is so important to safety. I need to get the vehicle as close to the curb as possible to get it as far from traffic as I can when I'm parking.

You always have to be conscious of the combined length of your towing vehicle and your travel trailer. You're not a commercial truck driver (probably) so I'm going to give you a couple pointers on how you can turn safely. The biggest thing to remember is what happens when you turn a long rig.

The trailer doesn't follow the exact path of the towing vehicle, it cuts straight across that path. So when you're making a right turn, don't forget to take it a little wider so you're giving your trailer plenty of room to clear the right-side curb.

My last thought about driving safe and smart when you're towing is to brake intelligently. It's pretty simple folks. You need to leave yourself more room to stop when you're pulling a heavy trailer behind your truck.

I'd allow about twice as much space between your vehicle and the next one when you're towing, and give yourself twice as much time to stop at lights and intersections.

As always, common sense is the biggest factor in being safe. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going, and take it easy.
About the Author
Jeremy is a towing enthusiast who loves to accent his truck with the best hitch covers and helps people find the right trailer hitches for whatever vehicle they use to haul their toys around.
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