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How Do Trailers Cause Car Crashes?

For many people, there is nothing more enjoyable than hitching up a trailer and going away for the weekend with loved ones. During the summer, it is common to see the roads filled with boats heading for the shore or campers heading for the woods. For other individuals, trailering is a daily part of their employment, and they depend for their livelihood on the practical, rather than recreational, uses of trailers.

But with the added weight and bulk of a large object towed behind a vehicle, drivers must exercise abundant caution in order to keep themselves and others on the road safe. Even under the best conditions, the mere presence of a large trailer can cause potentially life-threatening problems in traffic. And when a person chooses to haul their trailer under illegal or unsafe conditions, they are at risk of more than just a traffic ticket.

Types of Trailers and Regulations

A trailer is generally defined as an unpowered vehicle which is towed by a powered one. Trailers are commonly seen on the road in the form of campers or RVs, boat trailers, farm trailers, or large tractor-trailers transporting goods and materials.

All states have some form of legislation restricting the length, width, height, and other specifications of trailers. There are also regulations regarding things such as registration fees, license plates, reflectors and lights, mirrors, cameras, side markers, safety equipment, passengers, speed, hitches, signals, and weight distribution. Operators in South Carolina must make sure to follow all guidelines and properly register their trailer when necessary. For high-weight trailers, a driver may even need a class E or F driver’s license. Those who haul trailers outside of the legal guidelines put themselves and other drivers at increased risk of accident.

In South Carolina, specific types of trailers must be registered with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV). The following trailer types can be granted trailer plates:

  • Camper trailers
  • Travel trailers
  • Horse trailers
  • Boat trailers
  • Utility trailers
  • Pole trailers
  • Farm trailers
  • Semitrailers

This may or may not include other types of towed vehicles such as bicycle trailers, dollies, tanks, solar generator trailers, livestock transporters, farm equipment, or parade floats. Regardless of the type, there are inherent risks that accompany towing a trailer.

Potential Hazards of Trailers on the Road

The causes of trailer accidents are often the same causes that result in collisions involving standard-sized vehicles. Factors such as speeding, mobile phone use, distracted driving, substance abuse, and disregard of traffic laws are some of the most common factors in any type of vehicular crash. However, when a driver engages in these risky behaviors while towing a trailer, the repercussions can be much more destructive.

There are also several additional factors which can complicate matters. Trailer towing has special requirements, and not every driver knows how to adjust their actions to appropriately compensate for the demands of a trailer. The following issues are some of the most frequent causes of trailer-involved accidents on the roadways:

  • Braking. Safe braking becomes much more imperative when towing the added weight of a trailer behind the vehicle. Operators may need to invest in a brake controller, an electronic device which activates the brakes on your trailer when you use your car brakes. South Carolina has specific guidelines dictating the types of brakes required for various vehicles. Improper brake maintenance or usage is extremely dangerous. A driver towing a trailer without adequate braking mechanisms will most likely be found negligent and responsible in the case of a collision.
  • Decreased Visibility. Towing a trailer makes it more difficult for a driver to clearly view the road and cars beside and behind them. Trailers also have sizeable blind spots, making it important to have the trailer equipped with mirrors or camera that can increase visibility and prevent collisions.
  • Miscalculating Turns. The added weight of the trailer means that a driver must calculate for longer stopping distances and slower turning speeds. Not everyone is qualified or prepared to do this, and people inexperienced in towing trailers often take turns far more sharply and swiftly than they should. This is especially hazardous when roads are slippery or wet.
  • Faulty or Insufficient Equipment. When a person does not follow all the necessary precautions for safe trailer usage as mandated by their state government, they put everyone around them at risk. For example, incorrect tires can blow out or lead to fishtailing, improper use of lights and reflectors obscure the trailer from sight, and failure to check weight distribution can cause loss of vehicle control.
  • Improper Attachment or Vehicle Incompatibility. If the trailer is not correctly hitched to the vehicle in front of it, there is a chance it can come loose and detach on the road. Too many people have been killed or injured by a runaway trailer. Similarly, a vehicle that does not have enough power to pull the trailer, particularly when traveling uphill, is more likely to have steering problems, become unbalanced, or cause a rear-end collision.
  • Rollovers. Due to their height, many trailers have a higher center of gravity than the car a driver may be used to driving. Trailers are also highly susceptible to crosswinds and can get caught in the wake of passing tractor-trailers. A driver may not realize that even the posted speed limit may be too fast for the trailer to handle without destabilizing, and trailer sway can result. All these factors can lead to a dangerous situation of rollover.

The Solomon Law Group Can Help You

If you have been injured in a collision involving a trailer, you may be unsure what to do next. With our extensive experience in car, truck, and motorcycle accident law, we have the expertise to advise you on how to best proceed. We’ll investigate your accident to determine who was at fault and what type and amount of compensation you need to fully recover your losses. We invite you to reach out today to set up a free consultation.

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