05 Jul 2021

Personal Injury

Staying safe during your staycation

With enforced quarantining on arrival, a strict traffic light system for tourist hotspots and the risk of disruption or cancellation looming, for many, a holiday abroad this summer looks increasingly unlikely.

As a result, many of us will turn to the ‘staycation’, pinning our hopes on the unpredictable British weather, a peaceful campsite and a trusty caravan to deliver some much needed rest and recovery.

But before thousands of us head to the beautiful coastlines of West Wales or the rugged landscapes of the Lake District, Partner and head of our Personal injury team, Victoria Smithyman, offers her top tips for staying safe (and on the right side of the law!) when enjoying your summer getaway.

I have fond memories from my childhood of my parents packing the car, hitching up the caravan and heading to a campsite in Cornwall for a few weeks of sea, sand and sunshine. However, as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve become increasingly aware of the dangers that these ‘houses on wheels’ present. There are over 4,000 incidents involving trailers and caravans every year, with poorly loaded vehicles, faulty equipment and dangerous driving causing chaos on our roads.[1]

So, how can you stay safe while enjoying your summer break?

Before you leave:

Ensure essential safety checks take place.

Unlike cars or motorbikes, caravans being towed do not need a valid MOT certificate to be on the road. However, you should still carry out a number of safety checks to ensure to ensure you are road-worthy.

This includes:

  • Ensuring the caravan is coupled correctly to your towbar. Failing to fully hitch the towed vehicle can result in the caravan coming loose from your car, which could cause a serious accident.
  • You must ensure that the plates on the rear of the towed vehicle match your number plates. You’ll also need to check that the indicators are in good working order.
  • Any towed vehicles weighing over 750kg when loaded must have a working break system. Regardless of weight, vehicles must have a breakaway cable or secondary coupling in case the caravan becomes detached.[2]
  • Check the pressure and tread of your wheels. Make sure to also look for any nails or cracks in the wheel, as well as ensuring the wheel nuts are tight.
  • There are strict rules when it comes to mirrors. The law states that you must have mirrors that enable to you to see along both sides of the towed vehicle, as well as providing an adequate view of the road behind you. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and 3 penalty points.
  • Check indicators and brake lights are in good working order.

A full checklist of pre-journey checks can be found here.

Check the weather

British summers aren’t famed for their excellent weather. Rain, sleet, strong winds and flash floods are seemingly as common as sunshine and each presents its own difficulties when towing a caravan. Strong winds especially can make your caravan unstable, causing the towed vehicle to ‘snake’ or overturn[3].

In light of this, I’d recommend using a weather app to check the forecast ahead of your journey and if possible, plan to travel on a dry day with good visibility.

 

On the road:

Watch your speed.

The speed limits when towing are slightly different – you’re limited to 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways.[4]

When towing your caravan, I’d also advise giving yourself a little extra time and space. Start braking earlier than you usually would, allow yourself extra room when turning corners and keep an eye on your distance at all times – but especially when you’re going downhill – to ensure you have adequate time to react to any adverse or unexpected situations.

Overtaking:

In addition to tackling the motorway at a slightly slower speed, when towing a caravan, you are not permitted to be in the outside lane if the motorway has three lanes or more.

Make sure you’re also mindful of other road users when driving on single or dual-lane roads where overtaking options are limited. According to WhatCar, if you see a queue forming in your mirrors while towing, it’s not only good manners to pull over and let traffic pass when it’s safe to do so – it also ensures you are correctly applying the Highway Code.[5] Rule 169 states that you should not ‘hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle’.[6]

Where to sit?

Although the cozy armchair or double-bed may look more appealing than the passenger seat of your car, is it illegal to travel in a caravan while it is being towed.

Caravans are not designed to be crash-proof. They are made from light aluminum, plastic and fiberglass and don’t have the safety features such as crumple zones or airbags that cars offer – not to mention the danger that items stored within the towed vehicle can present in the event of a collision.[7]

Pets are permitted to travel within a caravan, but for peace of mind, we’d advise reserving a space for them in the car.

 

Pitching Up:

Gas requirements

Your ‘house on wheels’ needs a source of power to supply the fridge, heating, shower and cooker, which often comes in the form of gas cylinders.

There is tonnes of advice from specialist suppliers available online[8], but as a starting point, I’d recommend ensuring that gas bottles are stored upright and in a well-ventilated area, as well as carrying out regular checks on the cylinders to ensure there are no leaks or cracks.

If you’re heading out for the day, make sure to switch off all gas-powered appliances, and when the time comes to pack up and head home, turn off and disconnect the gas bottles.

Finally, make sure all gas-powered appliances are booked in for regular services.

Fire Hazards

A summer break is rarely complete without a batch of overcooked burgers from the barbeque. However, open fires and the close proximity of campsite pitches means that your dinner plans could quickly become a serious hazard.

Don’t use stoves or disposable barbecues in an enclosed space with poor ventilation, such as a caravan. It’s better to stand in the rain than risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

Furthermore, make sure to fit and test a smoke alarm in your caravan, take special care when cooking and make sure there is adequate room between you and your neighbors to reduce the risk of fire spreading.[9]

If you’ve been involved in an accident, our expert personal injury team can help you find out if you’re eligible to make a claim. Get in touch today by calling 01633 244233 or sending an email to hello@hevans.com

 


[1] Motor1.com, ‘This is why the UK has 11 trailer, caravan accidents a day’, 2019. 

[2] GOV.UK, ‘Towing with a car’, 2021.

[3] The Camping and Caravanning Club, ‘Caravanning in Bad Weather’ 2021.

[4] The Camping and Caravanning Club, ‘How to Tow a Caravan’, 2021.

[5] What Car? ‘What speed limits apply when towing a caravan or trailer?’ 2018.

[6] What Car? ‘What speed limits apply when towing a caravan or trailer?’ 2018.

[7]  Caravan Guard, ‘Touring Caravan FAQs’, 2021. 

[8] Calor, ‘Using LPG for caravanning: a beginner’s guide’, 2019. 

[9] Caravan Guard, ‘Top 5 caravan insurance dangers on site’, 2014. 

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