Harley and Roger,
I agonized over writing this because it's so contrary to the prevailing attitudes and beliefs.
Our insurance company insures our trailer and our tow vehicle (our only vehicle). We have already had a small accident while towing. (Tow Vehicle hit on the side by another car while towing.) Our insurance company fully covered us.
No matter what you are towing with you always face liability issues in this country.
As far as I can see most tow accidents are usually caused by preventable driver issues, improper loading, hitches becoming 'unintentionally unhitched', driving too fast, driving in poor conditions, improper trailer tire maintenance,... All conditions that open you to legal suits no matter the size of your tow vehicle. If you lose control of your trailer, it is your problem no matter how big your tow vehicle is.
(I was amazed to read that something like 15% of the people in a recent survey admitted to becoming 'unintentionally unhitched', now that is really scary.)
In my mind there is no reason for sway to take over and less reason for the driver not to stop it with the brake controller.
My little trailer weighs about 70% the weight
of my tow vehicle, a very comfortable, safe weight. Another interesting property of our Tow Vehicle is that with two front passengers, 57 to 60% of the TV weight is on the front wheels and our Honda tows very flat without a WD hitch.
Even though we're gone 6-7 months at a time we are never overloaded, or near overloaded. Our Casita
16 weighs 2785#s including a hitch weight of 230#s, 70% of our Honda's 2 passenger weight. I expect our new Scamp
16 to weigh less.
It's fairly obvious from reading this and other blogs when people write about wanting 'hill speed' and about exceeding their tire's top speed limit, that some, if not many, drive at speeds where any small problem can become magnified.
I admit we are slow drivers, never exceding 60, and rarely more than 57 mph. We are amazed to see small and large rigs flying by us doing 70 on the occasions we are on interstates. Yes we are always in the right hand lane. Yes we avoid the insanity of the Interstates. Yes we love Interstates because that's where most of the traffic goes so we can more comfortably drive the now more deserted, more interesting, non-interstates that criss-cross our country.
The key element of towing is the driver. I have attempted to look at the cause of accidents. Certainly most occur with 'proper' tow vehicles. Why?
In four years of towing, and we're typically on the road seven months of the year, I have never had a single instance where we have had an out of control trailer. We did have one time that we had some sway when we had placed a small generator
on our bumper. Sway was immediately stopped by tapping the brake controller. We stopped at the first rest area and moved the generator
inside and sway gone.
We've had one highway emergency stop where an extended cab pickup pulled into the highway blocking both lanes. We had to slam the brakes
on at 55 mph and just missed clobbering the side of his truck. The trailer, impressively stayed perfectly straight, though with smoking tires
, We did have an anti-sway bar, I imagined it helped but don't know if it would have stayed straight without it.
When one looks at the list of trailer accidents, the largest number seems to be with utility trailers, not RVs, which probably says a lot more about loading and driver experience than anything else.
As well many RV accidents are caused by trailers getting hit by careless drivers, particularly in lane switching accidents. I feel sorry for those in these accidents. This is one of the reasons we tend to be in the right hand lane. We realize that the driving game is different when towing, different for us and different for other drivers who do not understand towing. It is also the reason that when we change lanes it is a two person action for driver and passenger. My alert level changes dramatically in these situations as it does in every merge situation.
I treat towing like I treat passing some one riding a bike on the side of the road. As a kid I always felt safe on my bike when riding on a road with cars. In retrospect I say 'yikes'. I know non-trailer drivers lack respect for the job of people pulling trailers, as a result I try to minimize our exposure by selecting roads, driving at reasonable speeds, counting on my partner for additional information, (also partner has responsibility checking and re-checking the hitch and tires).
In all our RVing experience all the people I've met that had a trailer rollover accident we're towing with Tow Vehicles that were large enough. A large tow vehicle is no quarantee of success. Interesting to me none of the people I've known had small trailer accidents, probably not surprising because big trailers are way more popular with the mostly long term travelers we meet.
My next safety item is tire pressure monitors for my trailer and tow vehicle, to me a more valuable tool than a large Tow Vehicle.
It interests me that one of the justifications for a large tow vehicle is the ability to carry a lot of camping stuff in the tow vehicle, (for many this is second to speed on hills). Our choice is not to carry all the stuff. I am truly amazed to see what some people do carry, taking as long to unload their tow vehicle as it does to setup their rig.
There is much one can do to minimize the possibility of an accident, the most important is a responsible driver. Certainly part of the equation is having an adequate tow vehicle, however every tow vehicle requires a responsible and knowledgeable driver.
I have never felt unsafe towing with our Honda, it has been a tremendously safe and reliable car and tow vehicle. It gets great mileage, tows small trailers extremely well, and maintains highway speeds.
Interestingly, in retrospect, even when we drove a large motorhome, we pretty much followed these same rules, avoiding interstates, driving in the right hand lane, keeping the speed down,.....
It surprises me that more Americans feel it's OK to have two set's of standards for tow vehicle ability, one for Europe and one for the USA. I am offended by this just as I'm offended that American car companies sell cars with small diesels and six speed transmissions in Europe as do all the foreign manufacturers while we are offered less capable cars.
We recently had the opportunity to buy a 2005 Casita
17 for the unbelievable price of $6500 that was for sale
in our park and did not because we have read how nose heavy Casita
17s can be, thinking it would be too much for our Honda. It subsequently sold in 5 minutes when posted on the Casita Club site for $7500. (In retrospect we should have bought it and resold it.)