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State Laws Addressing Towed Trailer Safety

States are beginning to address a highway safety issue that previously had little visibility: motorists killed in accidents involving passenger vehicles towing trailers.

An average of more than one person a day dies in such crashes, according to federal data. The collisions often occur when poorly secured trailers break loose and careen into traffic — a problem resonating as the Fourth of July holiday signals arrival of peak moving and recreational boating seasons, according to USA Today.

A Virginia law that took effect last week requires that any vehicle towing another vehicle or trailer have a trailer hitch or similar device strong enough for the weight of the vehicle or trailer being towed.

At least four other states — Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana and Tennessee — considered similar measures this year, and legislators expect to revisit the issue next year. Also, a Wisconsin state senator says he will introduce legislation next year.

“We’ve heard some really, really awful stories from here and from other states,” says Wisconsin state Sen. Dave Hansen, a Democrat from Green Bay.

Hansen says he was spurred to action by the April 20 death of Whitney Radder, a 19-year-old University of Wisconsin-Green Bay student who was killed when a trailer came loose from a pickup and crashed into her car on U.S. 41 in Howard.

Her death was one of hundreds tracked each year across the U.S. by Virginia traffic safety activist Ron Melancon, the driving force behind Virginia’s new law. Melancon, 46, founder of www.dangeroustrailers.org, has campaigned for stricter laws and inspections of towed trailers since 2003.

“Our best course to prevent these needless injuries or deaths is through education, enforcement and vehicle design engineering to minimize the human error factor,” Melancon says.

Regulations on passenger vehicles towing trailers vary widely from state to state. From 1975 through 2008, 15,211 people were killed in crashes involving passenger vehicles towing trailers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We are committed to safety,” says Pam O’Toole, executive director of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers, whose 750 member companies make about 75% of trailers sold in the U.S.

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Comments Disabled To "State Laws Addressing Towed Trailer Safety"

#1 Comment By Mark On July 6, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

As a life-long RV dealer, I have always watched with great concern the potential “pending fatalities” that people pull down the roads. There are just too many to even make a list, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

Not only are people pulling too much trailer for their vehicle, or with little or probably zero behind-the-wheel training and experience, but there seems to be less common sense these days. The speed limit says 65mph, so even though the wind is coming sideways at 30mph, those darn 18-wheelers are pushing me all over the highway and the trailer is trying to beat me to the nearest ditch, I’m not breaking any laws and it shouldn’t matter.

A couple other critical problems that are needing IMMEDIATE attention are:

1) The “tow bar immigrants” that tow these old trucks and mini-vans by tow bar at 1/2 the posted speed limit, behind other old trucks and mini-vans (usually in convoys of 6-10 families or coyotes). I think it’s rare that any one of them has any lights on the towed vehicle and most are driving vehicles that can’t stop their own weight, much less the weight of an equal sized vehicle pushing from behind with no auxiliary brakes at all!!

2) My 1990 F-250 or 1989 Blazer has a trailer hitch, so it can tow a trailer. How many people ever look under that vehicle (especially in the rust belts of our country)?

Those old trailer hitches and frames are so rotted out (especially to the front side that you can’t see from kneeling down behind the vehicle), that one hard bump or quick stop could yank the entire assembly off the back of the vehicle!!

I think any pending legislation should make qualified trailer hitch and vehicle safety inspections mandatory after ten years and maybe every three years thereafter.
I can’t believe that as a Republican I support more government legislation of any sort, but this is truly a topic that needs to be addressed immediately!

#2 Comment By Repeal_The_Va_Radar_Detector_Ban On August 8, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
• The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
• Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
• It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
• In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
• Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.
*** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***

Please sign this petition and help repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally: