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Putting the emphasis on caravan road safety

Caravan holidays are an incredibly popular pastime in the UK, but with more Brits opting to hook up trailers and embark on staycations on the back of the pandemic, how can they be sure they’re doing it safely?

From selecting the right tow vehicle to knowing the reduced speed limits which apply, there’s plenty to think about if you’re planning to hook up a caravan in the months ahead…

car towing a caravan

Why a focus on caravan road safety?

According to figures from the National Caravan Council (NCC), there are an estimated 555,000 touring caravans in use across the UK, in addition to a further 225,000 motorhomes.

Figures from Highways England revealed that there are 4,000 accidents annually involving a trailer, showcasing why caravan road safety is of pivotal importance.

Studies suggest around half of accidents involving caravans in the UK take place between June and August, with more than one fifth happening in August alone.

This is mainly because there are more caravans out on the roads during these months, and especially during the school holidays, which is why drivers are encouraged to be extra careful.

What to consider when towing a caravan

Before setting off, it’s vital to ensure that your car is well matched to the trailer it will be towing – legal weight and width limits exist to ensure that vehicles can comfortably tow.

Nearly all cars will have a maximum weight that they can tow, and that should never be exceeded in any circumstances.

A regular recommendation is that the weight of any loaded caravan should not exceed 85% of the towing car’s kerb weight – a vehicle’s weight when it has all the fuel and fluids needed to operate.

Tow bars form an essential part of towing a caravan, as they act as the main point of connection between the car and the trailer.

They’ll be checked as part of a vehicle’s MOT if fixed permanently, but drivers are still encouraged to check them regularly for rust or cracking.

Additional checks are vital when using detachable tow bars, as there are more issues that could arise while in motion if they are not fitted properly.

As the road lights for a caravan are operated from the tow car, it’s also important to check the electrical connections before setting off, including the need to have a warning system in the vehicle to show that all indicators are working.

Don’t forget to attach a number plate for the tow car to the back of the caravan too.

Top tips for driving with a caravan

When a trailer is attached, it’s an offence to drive at more than 60 mph, even on a motorway, and you’ll remember that you’ll require additional space to completely manoeuvres such as overtaking or braking.

According to the Camping and Caravanning Club, the average stopping distance when towing can increase by 20%, so it’s best to avoid any violent braking if possible.

Cornering will generally need to be done more slowly, as the trailer will not follow the exact part of the tow car – something to keep in mind while on roundabouts.

Acceleration will also take more time than usual with a trailer attached, while travelling at lower speeds might help you to save some fuel.

One other key factor to consider is instability, as you may find your trailer ends up snaking due to a variety of reasons, such as bad loading, excessive speed or even poor tyre pressures.

Potholes or turbulence from passing lorries may also have an impact when towing, so you’ll want to give yourself as much space as possible on the road to correct any safety issues that may arise.

It’s also important to note that while the majority of car insurance policies will cover your vehicle while you’re towing a caravan, they likely will not cover any damage to the caravan itself – so you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what you are and are not covered for before setting off.

Playing it safe

It is advisable to check that you have adequate breakdown cover in place for both your car and caravan if you are planning to be hitting the roads soon with a caravan in tow, and likewise do check that motor insurance policy doesn’t have any exclusions relating to towing.

Is your caravan insured?  Again, see what’s covered prior to commencing your journey and likewise when it is stationary in use and parked up in storage.

Although not specifically covering caravans it is possible to take out private motor excess insurance on your vehicle to alleviate any financial responsibilities in the event of having to make a claim on your main insurance policy.  Annual policies are available covering a variety of different excess amounts, find out more here.

Most importantly enjoy your trip and stay safe this summer.

Date Created: 24/06/2021

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