Leave your inner Sarel van der Merwe at home when you hitch a caravan
There are those who brag about the way they let fly while towing a caravan, but if you’re towing too fast and things go wrong, there will be hell to pay.
It’s inconvenient to lumber along to your holiday destination. You want your camp set up by early afternoon, but when towing a vehicle it is undeniably more dangerous to drive at 120 km/h, especially when the road has bends, when you try to avoid a pothole or when you need to brake sharply. The momentum of a caravan, which in this case pushes your car from behind, or may even pull it to one side, can have disastrous results.
Geoff Elske, former general manager of the AA, reckons that the safest towing speed is 90-100 km/h. This may perhaps seem tedious, but as Geoff says, it’s petrifying to see how some caravanners speed at 120 km/h.
“There are quite a number of questions the driver of a towing vehicle must ask himor herself before hitting the road – things such as whether the caravan is loaded correctly and whether basic components of both vehicles are functioning as they should.
Also remember that a towing combination never handles as easily as a vehicle on its own. This is why it’s advisable to double your following distance when towing. Instead of applying the two-second rule, make it four seconds so that there is sufficient space between you and the vehicle ahead if you suddenly need to brake hard.”
HERE’S THE EVIDENCE
It is astounding and insightful to see the big difference that a little less speed makes with regard to your towing combination and your ability to brake.
Prof. Francois Smit and Dr. Marèt Cloete of the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Applied Mathematics made a few sums on their pocket calculators to demonstrate the distances needed to stop a typical towing combination in its tracks at different speeds.
For the purpose of this exercise, we used a double-cab bakkie with a tare of 1 900 kg, luggage weighing 200 kg, two occupants weiging 100 kg each ( either you or your brother in law will have to follow a strict diet. – Ed.), and a half-filled fuel tank of 40 kg (thus altogehter 2 340 kg) towing a caravan with a tare of 1 120 kg and 100 kg of luggage inside (altogether making up 1 220 kg). Your reaction time is between 0,6 s and 1 s; so we’ll work with an average of 0,8 s.