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Tragic accident reminds RVers to be very careful when towing

An article published earlier this week in the Deseret News told the story of a Utah man who died after being pinned between his camper and his tow vehicle while on a family camping trip.

You can read the story by clicking here.

“Just a reminder to everyone to slow down, use caution, make sure you’re setting your brake, turning your vehicle off and putting it in park,” Lisa Gardiner, a relative of the victim, told the Desert News.

She is absolutely right.

The potential problems with towing are numerous, and the action of attaching and detaching a tow vehicle require absolute concentration. Already, I have had two close encounters with disaster myself.

The first happened at the KOA campground in Omaha. I had been escorted to my site and got the motorhome all plugged in. All that remained was detaching the Jeep. However, I found it more difficult than normal to do it. The pins just would not come out of the couplers.

So, using a hammer and a screwdriver, I was able to whack and wiggle one pin out, and then the other. As soon as I pulled the second pin out, the Jeep started to roll away. I had forgotten to take it out of neutral and put it back into gear.

As it rolled out of the driveway, I was able to jump in the Jeep and turn the steering wheel sharply to guide it down the road until it came to a stop. I couldn’t apply the brake because the supplemental braking system was still in place.

I was very fortunate the Jeep didn’t roll toward me, pinning me against the motorhome. I am also very, very fortunate, the runaway Jeep didn’t roll into another RV or one of the campground’s guests. The tire tracks showed I came within feet of hitting a fifth wheel.

The second incident happened a few weeks ago as I was leaving Burlington, Iowa.  I was running behind schedule, so I was rushing hitching process. I had attached one arm of the hitch to the Jeep and rested the end of the other arm just above the coupler as I connected all the other wires and safety chains. The problem is that I never came back to attach the second arm. I started up the motorhome and headed out onto the road.

With the Jeep attached by only one arm of the tow bar, nothing prevented the vehicle from slamming into the back of the motorhome several times until I could pull off the road. Although I had broken the unattached arm and the hitch would no longer work, I was fortunate that the safety chain kept the Jeep from swinging wildly into traffic.

The key thing to remember is that hitching is serious business and it requires perfect concentration. Really, it only takes an extra two minutes — if that — to check all the hitch connections to make sure they are secure before heading out. And, when unhooking, it takes seconds to make sure the towed vehicle won’t move when it’s unattached.

John Huggins, the podcaster at Living the RV Dream, told me that he, too, has had several close calls, which is why he doesn’t allow anyone to talk to him when he is attaching the tow vehicle to his motorhome. Kids, spouses, neighbors and cell phones can provide that momentary distraction that could cause someone to forget a critical step that could lead to disaster.

My thoughts go out to the family of the Utah man killed when he was crushed to death. What a horrible way to end a family vacation.

Unfortunately, hitching problems are a very common occurrence. Fortunately, they are issues that could be completely avoided with a few moments of intense concentration.

About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor of Let's RV and the editor of RV Daily Report. A Wisconsin native and father of three grown daughters, he is now based out of Arizona and travels the country in his Winnebago Adventurer motorhome interviewing industry professionals and interesting RVers alike. He can be reached at editor@letsrv.com

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