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Fatal Truck Accident Raises Issues of Safe Towing

An Illinois truck driver was struck and killed over the weekend when a trailer towed by an SUV came loose, crossed the median and struck the semi on Interstate 80-90. The driver of the UPS semi truck was declared dead on the scene from blunt force trauma caused by the trailer. The fatal truck accident raises questions as to how the empty trailer became un-hitched from the SUV. According to police, the driver of the SUV was not intoxicated and was not swerving when the trailer came off. He did not receive a traffic citation, nor is he facing criminal charges at this time.

The 12-foot horse trailer was empty as it was towed behind a Chevrolet Suburban on the Indiana Toll Road. The weight of such a trailer should have been no problem for an SUV of that size. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guide to towing, the fact that the trailer was empty could have led to a tongue weight that was too low, leading to excessive swaying. With no evidence of erratic driving or swaying, the most likely causes of the trailer becoming un-hitched are equipment failure or a mistake made in securing the trailer in the first place.

State and federal laws require the use of hitch safety chains when pulling a trailer. These chains are intended to stop a trailer from rolling away from a vehicle if a ball mount hitch or draw bar hitch detaches. According to AW Direct, if connected properly, safety chains are the best guard against this type of accident. The safety chains must be properly chosen and installed to deal with the weight of whatever is being towed. In addition to safety chains, a locking pin should be used to lock the hitch to the mount. When both a locking and safety chains are used properly, the chance of a fatal accident occurring drop significantly. No evidence has been presented as to whether the driver of the SUV had properly connected safety chains at the time of this accident.

Towing a trailer is not something that should be done carelessly. If a driver is unfamiliar with towing, or if shortcuts are taken in properly securing the trailer, the danger of a catastrophic accident is high. This trailer broke free and cost a man his life. His loved ones, and the community at large, have a right to know if the trailer was being pulled in accordance with the law and with due regard for safety.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Truck driver dies after horse trainer hits semi in Indiana Toll Road crash," 4 February 2012

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