RV Safe Driving Rules

towingYour car or truck will have very different handling and stopping characteristics when it is towing a trailer. The following rules will help you develop needed driving skills for safe trailer towing.

  • Travel very slowly if you are new to trailer towing, or if you have a new trailer or tow vehicle, until you have learned the handling and stopping characteristics of the tow vehicle/trailer combination. Practice turning, stopping, and backing in a secluded place away from traffic.
  • Do not permit a driver who is inexperienced at towing to operate your tow vehicle/trailer combination without your direct supervision. Remember-it’s slow speed for beginners.
  • Tow at moderate speeds allowing for adverse highway and wind conditions. Even under the best of conditions, it’s against California law to exceed 55 mph while towing. (In many other states, however, you can tow up to the posted speed limit). As speed increases, trailer sway, stability, stopping ability and the ability to make emergency maneuvers is greatly reduced.
  • Reduce speed before starting down hills-even short ones-and avoid heavy tow vehicle braking on downgrades. Trailer towing stability is reduced when traveling downhill, and is further reduced by tow vehicle braking.
  • Slow down before entering turns and avoid heavy braking in turns. Trailer stability is reduced in turns, and the weight of the trailer tends to push the back of the tow vehicle outward in turns, which can cause loss of control and “jackknifing”.
  • If it is windy or passing vehicles are affecting the trailer, slow down until full, comfortable control can be maintained. Crosswinds and the wind from passing vehicles, especially trucks and busses passing from the rear, can initiate trailer sway. Reduced speed improves trailer stability and handling.
  • Do not use an automatic cruise speed control while towing. These devices can interfere with your ability to slow down in an emergency.
  • Avoid quick steering movements that can start the trailer swaying.

If the Trailer is Swaying:

  • Steer as little as possible while maintaining control of the vehicle. Because of your natural reaction time lag, quick steering movements to counter trailer sway will actually cause increased sway and loss of control. Try to hold the wheel as straight as possible until stability is regained.
  • Slow down but avoid strong tow vehicle braking. In some instances, actually accelerating while manually applying the hand brake control will pull you out of a sway situation. Reduce speed gradually whenever possible. Use the hand brake control to gradually apply the trailer brakes: this will help keep the two vehicles aligned. Tow vehicle braking reduces trailer stability, and sliding tow vehicle tires causes loss of control and “jackknifing”.
  • If a reduction in trailer stability has occurred, once you regain control, slow down immediately and stop as soon as possible. Check tire pressures, sway control device adjustment, hitch spring bar adjustment, cargo weight distribution, and look for any signs of mechanical failure. Until the problem has been identified and corrected, travel at reduced speeds that permit full control.
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