WATCH | Here's how a perfectly weighted trailer can save lives during the holidays

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Demonstration on the dangers if a trailer is not weighted correctly.
Demonstration on the dangers if a trailer is not weighted correctly.
Claire Thomas

• Trailers are one of the biggest causes of accidents on South African roads.

• A perfectly weighted trailer can prevent people losing their lives in the event of an accident.

• Too many road users are not well-informed on the dangers of hooking a trailer.

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With the festive season upon us, families and friends will be venturing out to their holiday destinations, often with a hitched trailer or caravan. But did you know that South Africa is one of the world's countries with the highest road death figures? Every year, thousands of people die on our roads over the festive season. And while that figure has seen a slight reduction in recent years, it is still not low enough for South Africa's roads to receive a 'safe' rating.

Over the 2018/9 festive season, 1789 people died on our roads. For 2019/20, the figure dropped by around 10% to 1617 deaths.

Numerous factors contribute to the total death factor, including pedestrians jaywalking, not wearing a seatbelt in the event of an accident, small children not strapped into a baby seat, and trailers. Yes, trailers are among the most dangerous elements when hitting the road and not being informed on the dangers can lead to serious injury or even death.

Earlier this month, Claire Thomas, a member of the Australian Road Safety Commission, uploaded a video to Facebook in which she and her team demonstrated one of the most obvious dangers of hooking a trailer: An imbalance of the weight on the trailer.

Video explained

In the simple, yet very efficient, demonstration, a 'vehicle' is placed on a rubber band, with a trailer hooked on. With small weight blocks placed over the trailer's axle and near the hitch, the trailer has a greater balance when something suddenly disturbs its direction of travel. With the blocks placed on the most rear parts of the trailer, the trailer sends the 'vehicle' into a complete loss of control.

This demonstration is a perfect indication of what many road users go through when the trailer suddenly begins to sway, but it can be averted to a great deal when one adjusts the weight on the trailer correctly.

South African road safety champion, Arrive Alive, says: "In many recent crash reports, a trailer is found somewhere on or near the crash scene. Surveys confirm that many trailer owners are not fully aware of the safest method of towing cargo. We need to recognize that safety information is important for many others than trailer owners."

Do you have any trailer tips that prevented you and your loved ones from sustaining serious injury? Email us.
Hooked trailers

Tips when towing a trailer

Arrive Alive lists the following safety tips when loading a trailer:

• The driver needs must ensure that the load inside the trailer is balanced properly. Unbalanced loads can cause problems like trailer sway on the road.

• Ensure that the centre of gravity (CG) is towards the front of the trailer, usually around 10-20cm ahead of the axle.When towing a trailer, you'll want to load it to attain a 10-15% tongue weight.

• Downward force at the point of attachment improves the handling characteristics when towing.

• It is best to distribute 60% of the load over the front half of the trailer (nearest to the towing vehicle).Contents must be evenly distributed on both sides of the trailer.

• Once the trailer has been loaded and the weight is distributed properly, all cargo should be secured to prevent the load from shifting.

READ: Towing Of Vehicles and National Road Traffic Act

• Should a part of the load be removed during the journey, you may need to rearrange and re-secure the rest of the load.

• Loads carried on trailers should be properly restrained so they can't shift around while the vehicle is moving.

• Securing loads can be done by packing them inside compartments that are rigidly attached to the vehicle, by lashings (webbing straps, ropes, chains) or clamps securely attached to appropriate anchorage points (rails, hooks or eyes) on the trailer.

• Always keep in mind when securing loads that they try to move forward when the vehicle brakes, sideways when the vehicle turns, backwards when the vehicle accelerates & upwards when the vehicle goes over bumps.

• You may need to cover loads that may be affected by airflow or by the motion of the vehicle.

For more tips on how to tow a trailer safely, click here.

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