Can We Make Our Roads Safer?

Aug. 14, 2023
The issues with towing

By Paul Gosar, Contributing Author

As summer arrives, many Americans are ready to take to the highways pulling a boat or a camping trailer. Towing trailers with boats, wave runners, and campers is as American as July 4th. Now,as lawmakers prepare for the upcoming annual appropriations process which includes highway and infrastructure funding, Congress must ensure any legislation to build and repair our infrastructure also makes our highways and roads safer.

Sadly, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2022, 42,795 people across the United States were killed  in traffic accidents. Another 3,434 people were killed walking next to roads, crossing roads, or otherwise being pedestrians.  There are other safety issues than cars and pedestrians, including accidents because of trailers being towed by vehicles. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that there are over 50,000 accidents every year related to towing.

As a crucial aspect of transportation, pulling a trailer behind a vehicle is becoming increasingly common in our daily lives.However, the process of pulling a trailer behind a vehicle can prove to be quite challenging and hazardous. Often, the combination of vehicle and trailer can have unpredictable effects on the handling and balance of the vehicle, resulting in potential accidents and fatalities.

Pulling a trailer behind a vehicle can drastically change the physics and dynamics of the car. For example, it will take much longer to stop, longer to accelerate, and it makes turning, changing lanes, and other simple tasks more complicated and prone to error. These errors can cause significant risks, including the possibility of the trailer detaching from the vehicle while in motion. Other potential hazards include sway, rollover, and loss of control of the vehicle. The act of backing up a trailer behind a vehicle can be a particularly daunting and dangerous task.

For the most part, anyone can pull a trailer on the highway, including a camper, an open bed trailer to haul construction materials or a moving trailer from a rental company. No special class of driver’s license is needed nor is training required to operate a vehicle towing a trailer.

For good reason, the automobile industry has been focused on safety for decades. NHTSA, for example, recently announced plans to require that all new passenger cars and light trucks include automatic emergency brakes that can prevent passenger and pedestrian deaths. The regulation proposed by NHTSA will require, for example, that the systems allow vehicles to fully avoid other vehicles at up to 50 miles per hour if a driver should fail to react. It is technology like this that can save lives.

Since 1975, there have been 50,000 accidents every year and more than 17,000 fatalities involving trailers. It is time Congress considered ideas towards ensuring that pulling a trailer becomes safer. I am proposing an amendment to the Transportation/HUD appropriations bill to get a congressionally authorized study to see what safety features, products and practices can help mitigate risk while towing a trailer and help create safer roadways for drivers, passengers and all road users. My amendment is the first step in that process. R&B

Paul Gosar is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has served Arizona in three different districts since 2011. 

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