Common Causes of Caravan Accidents & How To Avoid Them
Accidents are all-too-common on Australian roads, tragically claiming more than 1100 lives each year. Every driver needs to be prepared for the possibility of an accident when they’re out on the roads, and even more so if you’re towing a caravan.
Although you cannot entirely eliminate the risks of road travel, there are several steps you can take to avoid the most common causes of caravan accidents. Today, we’ll explore some of these causes and offer some tips on caravan safety to help you avoid an accident and keep yourself and your investment safe.
Being A Safer Driver
Speed Kills: Slow Down
Speeding is the number one cause of road accidents in Australia and the most preventable one. While you cannot control the weather or the decisions other drivers make, everyone can choose to drive more slowly – and everyone should.
However, not speeding doesn’t just mean driving the speed limit. Depending on where you are in the country, that could be up to 120km/h, and even on a perfectly smooth, dead-straight road, that is far too fast. As a general rule, you should keep your speed below 100km/h at all times, no matter the size of the caravan you’re towing, and reduce your speed further according to the conditions.
Doing so will greatly reduce the risk of losing control of your caravan and ensure you have plenty of time to react and stop if you encounter anything on the road. Although it might take you a little longer to get to your destination, it is far better to get there safely than to risk an accident along the way. Besides, you’re on holiday – there’s plenty of time to take it slow and enjoy the journey!
Overloaded Caravans & Unsuitable Towing Vehicles
Overweight towing is illegal and highly dangerous, as the extra weight makes it harder to stop and easier to lose control of your vehicle or caravan. Unfortunately, it is far too easy for owners to (unintentionally) tow an overloaded caravan due to the confusion caused by the different terms involved.
Before you set out with your caravan, familiarise yourself with caravan towing weights to ensure you understand your towing limits and how much you can load up both your caravan and towing vehicle. The most important terms to be aware of are your vehicle’s tow ball weight and gross combination mass (GCM) and your caravan’s tow ball mass (TBM) and aggregate trailer mass (ATM).
Understanding these terms and their associated weights will allow you to avoid overloading your caravan and exceeding your vehicle’s towing capacity, helping you stay safer on the road.
Countering A Swaying Caravan
A swaying or fishtailing caravan is one of the most terrifying experiences an owner can have on the road and one that, if you don’t know how to handle it, can quickly lead to disaster. Swaying can be caused by high winds, high speeds, or an overloaded or improperly packed caravan, so avoiding any of these in the first place is essential.
Keep your speed down, do not overload your caravan, and avoid driving in high winds or stormy weather whenever possible. Additionally, it is well worth investing in an electronic sway controller that will automatically and independently apply your caravan’s brakes to stop the swaying.
However, if you do not have a controller and your caravan starts swaying, do not brake, as it could cause your caravan to jackknife and crash. Instead, maintain your speed before accelerating slowly and smoothly to counteract the swaying – it might seem counter-intuitive, but it will help you avoid an accident.
Take Your Corners Wide & Slow
Caravans are heavy, high-sided vehicles and, as such, are at risk of tipping. While a swaying caravan can tip if it is not brought under control, the most significant danger is in making a turn too quickly and too sharply.
Whether at an intersection or on the open road, you must take extra care when towing a caravan to take corners wide and slow, as sailing around a corner too tightly or at speed risks flipping your caravan or clipping another vehicle in the oncoming lane.
For extra safety, it is recommended to install towing mirrors on your vehicle so you can always see the front, sides and rear of your caravan and watch how it handles a corner.
Remember: no amount of time saved is worth your safety
While many of these steps and behaviours will already be part of your routine as a caravan owner, it is important to keep them at the front of your mind when you’re on the road. And although it might seem unnecessary to inspect your vehicle every time before you set out, doing so will help keep you safe on your holidays.
So slow down, drive carefully, and don’t forget to check your caravan at the start of every day’s adventure. For more tips and advice on owning, operating and maintaining your Regent caravan, click here.