Tow Airstream Safety

‘Streamer Safety—Part Two

In Outside Interests Issue 9 we learned that safety depends on your towing speed (slower than you think), measuring the height (in feet AND meters) of your rig, and knowing how to operate—and how to escape from—that back safety window. In this issue, Lazydays Safety and Training expert Jon Gold, and veteran Airstreamer (and Airstream Life contributing editor) John Irwin continue with tips to keep you and your beloved Airstream prepared for the unexpected.

Know where you are

If you aren’t the principal driver, look up from your book every half hour and ask, “where are we?” You’ll need to know the answer if there’s a sudden emergency that requires a call to 911. Be aware of where you are on the highway—the exit number, what direction you’re bound, the name of the town you passed 15 minutes ago—and when you’re camped, know the address of the park and your site number. “This nonsense you see on CIS where they can track you with a little blip on a computer screen? That’s fantasyland,” said safety expert Gold.

Watch the truckers

You didn’t see a “waystation” sign but all the trucks are exiting the highway like rats jumping from a sinking ship? Follow them. “They know stuff you don’t know,” said Gold. “These guys are professional drivers with CB radios; they know what’s a hundred miles in front of you and a hundred miles behind you. They’ll know if there’s a problem, like a low bridge you can’t get under, a detour you can’t get through, a roadway that’s too narrow, or anything unsafe up ahead.” This guideline also applies if the trucks start moving to the middle lane from the right.

The OMG moment

Everyone has come close to falling asleep at the wheel, and it’s a terrifying couple of seconds. “If you wake up and you’re heading for shoulder of the road, don’t panic,” said Gold. “Do not overcorrect and turn the steering wheel.” That’s what causes those those skid marks you see on the highway, resulting in fatal rollovers. “Level yourself out on the shoulder, look in the mirror, put on your turn signal, and re-enter your lane gradually at a safe re-entry point,” he said. “Then change drivers just as soon as it is safely possible.” Be aware of your limits—and watch your driving partner for signs of fatigue. Conk out for awhile at the next rest area, or pull to the side of the road if you can’t wait. “Say ‘officer, I couldn’t keep my eyes open’,” advised Gold.

“Unless you sleep for twenty minutes, you are not okay to drive,” continued Gold. (And make sure to deadbolt your door while you nap inside your Airstream. “Everybody who sees you knows you have money.”)

Eeek! How did I miss that warning sign?

You’re approaching a bridge and you realize you’re too tall. You’re towing in Manhattan during rush hour and you’re about to enter a tunnel that disallows propane. You know that your next move—whatever it is—might result in an accident. “When you’re in a jam, just stop,” advised Gold. “If you’re still in doubt, dial 911 and explain your dilemma. Even if there are four million cars trying to get past you, and gesturing out the window at you.”

Yes: just stop

Law enforcement would much rather help you safely out of a tight situation than respond to an accident that involves danger to them, harms citizens, and worst of all, generates paperwork. “Nine out of ten guys joined the force to help other people,” said Gold. “And it makes a great story that night at the bar with his buddies, about the crazy tourist in an Airstream who jammed up traffic.” And that night at dinner, you’ll be unhurt and able to laugh at yourself, too.

“Safety is motion,”John Irwin

said John Irwin, an experienced Airstreamer from Austin, Texas and longtime Airstream Life contributor. Irwin has been towing for 25 years—starting with a popup trailer and other SOBs—and now owns his third Airstream, a 28-foot 2005 Classic. “To me, the ability to keep moving, not sitting on the side of the road out in the middle of West Texas, is safety,” said Irwin. “Being unable to proceed is hazardous.” If you do stop, “get to someplace that’s safe—near houses that are occupied, where other human beings are within reach,” he said. “Don’t be an easy target.”

Stay in control

“Have a proper hitch so you can retain control of that trailer on the road,” said Irwin. “And install proper sway protection.” A properly optimized hitch (and good driving skills) can mean the difference between a severe accident and a near-miss. Register to participate in PTX Ontario—the only event specifically designed to give Airstream owners the opportunity to learn first hand what it takes to tow safely and efficiently. Advanced drivers will practice emergency stops, slalom turns, acceleration runs, emergency lane changes and more; beginners will learn basic skills (like backing), towing theory, and even experience a low-speed cone course simulating real-world situations. Can-AM experts will be on hand to provide hitch consultation and classroom sessions on towing, hitch optimization, and safe driving. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to improve your safety on the road, whatever your experience level. Sign up soon for PTX Ontario, held this summer, July 14-19, 2015, in Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada.

Stay in contact

“Where I’m from in Texas you can get out in the backwoods where there aren’t cell phone towers,” said Irwin, who has OnStar installed in his tow vehicle. “OnStar will usually get through where a cell phone won’t,” he said. “They have a much better antenna, and a more powerful transmitter. A lot of places where you can’t get any bars on your cell phone, you can get through with OnStar and similar services.”

Travel with a cell flip phone at a minimum; a smart phone is better. Obviously, whatever device you carry, “keep it charged,” said Irwin, “or it won’t do you any good.”

“Your safety is your responsibility,” concluded Irwin, “whether it’s being safe while you’re moving, or taking care of yourself when you can’t.”

– By RG Coleman