Last December, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) announced that drivers would no longer need to undertake any additional tests or training to tow caravans. These rule changes were initially meant to be introduced in the summer of 2021 but were delayed. Now, experts are warning that drivers may still be unaware of the changes.
The rules mean motorists who passed their driving tests from January 1997 can now tow heavier trailers, up to 3,500kg MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass).
Under previous rules, drivers needed to pass an additional driving test to be able to drive larger vehicles and tow trailers.
There were calls from road safety experts for drivers to be strongly encouraged to take extra training or tests to ensure they are confident.
While this is now no longer a legal necessity, they argued that it would allow motorists to learn the rules of the road before towing a weight they are not familiar with.
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John Woosey, founder of Ripe Insurance, said: “Many people towing caravans this winter may well be doing so for the very first time.
“So, I’d urge everyone to brush up on the rules before going any further. The last thing anybody wants right now is a fine – especially when it’s so easily avoidable.
“Towing a caravan can be challenging all year round, but winter certainly throws up additional challenges when the roads are typically more treacherous.”
Mr Woosey urged drivers to find the correct towbar, saying that power and weight were probably the most important factors.
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Both need to be carefully considered otherwise drivers will struggle to maintain control of their caravan on the road. Ideally, the towing vehicle will have a four-wheel drive as this provides a more stable foundation for towing.
The towbar also needs to be “type-approved”. This means it must meet EU regulations and be designed specifically for their towing vehicle.
Drivers will know if their towbar is type-approved because it will be labelled with an approval number and have details of the vehicles it’s approved for.
By law, drivers must have an adequate view of the road behind them. When towing a caravan, they need to fit extended mirrors that are wider than the rear of the car.
Leisure vehicle owners can be fined up to £1,000 and get three points on their driving licence if they don’t do this.
The law changes were made after a public consultation found that 64.9 percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed with allowing car drivers to tow a tailor without an additional test.
However, the consultation found over 5,000 respondents believed drivers would still want some training before towing a trailer, even if this was not mandatory.
Even if drivers are storing their leisure vehicles away for the winter, drivers still need to ensure that they are careful, removing any gas tanks and rotating their wheels on a regular basis.