If you own a boat, you may already have or are considering purchasing a trailer. Boaters often use trailers because they provide greater options for mobilizing vessels, especially if there isn’t a body of water located nearby. If you’re going on vacation or want to go fishing on a lake, having a trailer can help you get to where you plan to go.
Yet, if you’re planning on buying a trailer or are planning on using a trailer sometime in the near future, there are several safety matters to consider before venturing off on your trip. Here are six boat trailer safety tips from our boating accident lawyers that can help you avoid a serious injury:
- Buy a certified trailer. The National Marine Manufacturers Association certifies trailers that are in compliance with federal regulations and meet industry standards. If you’re considering buying a trailer, make sure the trailer is certified. You’ll buy knowing that your trailer meets highway safety regulations and that the trailer has been inspected.
- Size matters. Federal regulations require all trailers to clearly display a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The GVWR lets you know the maximum weight the trailer is designed to carry. As a general rule, the weight of your boat and gear should not exceed 85% of your trailer’s GVWR. Take into account the weight of water and gas. For example, water can weigh eight pounds per gallon and gas can weigh six pounds per gallon.
- Invest in a trailer with brakes. Most trailers with a GVWR of 1,500 pounds or greater are required to have brakes under state laws. Yet, experts recommend that you have brakes on lighter trailers as well. Investing in a trailer with brakes will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you are compliant with the law wherever you happen to travel. Brakes can also prevent costly or injurious accidents.
- Consider your car, SUV, truck, or van’s towing capacity. Your trailer will only be as effective as the car towing it. Make sure that your boat and trailer are well under the towing capacity limit of your car.
- Perform regular maintenance checks on your trailer. Check your trailer’s tires, making sure they are properly inflated. Inspect your trailer’s brakes to make sure they are in working order. Trailer lights are the most commonly malfunctioning component. Not having working lights is the same thing as losing your rear-end car lights. Your lights signal to other drivers when you’re turning or slowing down. They are needed for your safety and for the safety of other drivers on the road. Finally, check all safety chains and straps to ensure they are in working order.
- Give your car a tune up. Before you hit the road, make sure the towing vehicle’s tires are properly inflated, that the oil is changed, and that the car is in working order. It’s one thing for your car to break down and need to be towed; it’s another headache entirely for your car to break down with a boat in tow.
Having a boat trailer can offer numerous and fun ways to enjoy diverse waterways. Yet, checking your trailer for safety is just as important as making sure your boat has all safety equipment in order. Before you embark on your boating adventure, make sure to follow these six easy steps to avoid a boating accident.