Trailer troubles: When not properly secured, they can be deadly on the road
Every year hundreds of people tragically die in crashes involving trailers. Footage of some of those accidents show how trailers being towed by cars and trucks can come loose on the road, fishtail wildly and fly uncontrolled across lanes of traffic.
Kristi Cox's husband, Jeremy, was driving down a Minnesota road in 2010 with their two children when a trailer came loose from a truck and careened into their car, killing Jeremy and his three-year-old daughter Isabel. Their son, Liam, survived.
Surveillance footage from earlier in the day shows the hitch on the trailer that came loose has just one safety chain on it, but it was supposed to have two. The trailer was also missing a vital safety pin.
"If they would have hooked that up correctly that day, if they would have put the two chains on and the pin, then right now as I sit here, then Liam would still have his Dad and his sister," Cox told INSIDE EDITION.
Auto expert Lauren Fix says many people just don't know how to properly hitch a trailer.
"This pin is the most important part," Fix explained. "This little 25 cent part goes through this hole. This is the protection that keeps this latch from popping up when you hit a bump."
Fix says it's also important to have two chains hooked up properly. "You have to have two chains. It's really critical, and the key is: you cross them to cradle the hitch in case it comes undone."
To see what can happen when a trailer comes loose, INSIDE EDITION went to the Lancaster National Speedway in Buffalo, New York. Then we did something you should never do -- we removed the pin, undid the safety latch and unhooked the chains from a trailer. Then a professional driver took it for a drive.
After a slight bump, the trailer became unhitched and skidded off uncontrolled into the safety barriers.
On the next try, our driver pulled the trailer into a high-speed turn. As soon as he hits the turn, the trailer unhitched and careened into the wall.
To see how many people are hauling their trailers unsafely, INSIDE EDITION hit the road with the California Highway Patrol. We found problems almost immediately.
After one person was pulled over and ticketed for having only one safety chain, INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero asked the driver, "Did you learn something today?"
"We did," the driver replied.
Guerrero asked, "What did you learn?"
"To get two chains," said the driver who was unaware of the safety requirements.
California Highway Patrol pulled over another trailer that had just one chain and they also got a ticket.
"Put that chain on there and there's a brake light out, too," the officer told the driver.
"So what's the resolution?" Guerrero asked the driver.
"[I] have to put a second chain on there," he said.
These are Lessons to be learned to make sure you don't have a runaway trailer that could cause tragedy on the highway.
Here are five tips that can help you safely secure your trailer:
- Make sure the size stamped on the ball hitch on the towing vehicle is the same size that is stamped on the trailer's coupler.
- Make sure the ball hitch lever is latched properly.
- Cross safety chains under the tongue, and latch them to the towing vehicle's frame.
- Be sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly secured and adjusted.
- Check load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and trailer are properly balanced front to back and side to side.
For additional information and safety tips, click here.