Towing Caravans: Are You At Risk?

John Mack — 19 March 2014

No, this is not about not towing an overweight caravan or having the caravan and vehicle in top mechanical condition – these things are very important when towing but this is more about ‘How safe you are’ when you are out bush or on the open highways.

Let’s start by asking some basic questions:

  • When was the last time you and your partner had a full medical check-up?
  • Do you and your partner have a current first aid certificate?
  • Do you even know how to start resuscitation and/or put someone into the ‘recovery position’?
  • Do you have adequate communications systems when out of mobile range so that in the event of a medical or other emergency you can contact the requisite authorities promptly?
  • Do you carry a good First Aid kit in both car and caravan?
  • If you have a partner, do they share the driving/towing, and can they hitch-up single handed?
  • Can you manage the mechanical basics? Some examples are changing a tyre, change a blocked fuel filter, replace a fan belt or coolant hose, and bleeding a diesel fuel system.
  • Do you carry adequate basic spares, spare fuel, water and tools?
  • Do you carry a surplus of essential medications to cover an emergency?
  • Could you effectively provide assistance in a life threatening accident?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions then you and your partner are at risk on the road.

Imagine this scenario: Fred and Mary are towing their caravan out towards the Olgas in the Northern Territory. Fred is driving, as Mary says, because “Fred always does the driving’ when suddenly Fred feels dizzy. He manages to pull over before slumping unconscious over the wheel. Mary panics. She doesn’t know what’s wrong with Fred or what to do to revive or resuscitate him. She grabs the phone to call 000 but finds that there is no signal. There is little traffic on the road and Mary continues to panic as Fred’s condition appears to deteriorate.

It’s not a good scenario but it happens all too regularly. That is, something happens and people do not know how to respond. We have been staggered at the number of people we have met where only one partner drives or tows; many others have no communication systems other than the standard mobile phone. Often they do not have current first aid training or even carry more than a few plasters and some antiseptic cream.

Towing a caravan requires a very different set of skills from just driving a car. More to the point, if you only drive infrequently then that is an added risk factor. We have met a few very well organised people where both partners have prepared well for life on the road after retirement by both doing (a) Senior First Aid (b) Caravan Towing Course and (c) a 4WD Skills Course.

If you haven't done any of the above courses then it's worthwhile looking into doing one. A good place to start is our comprehensive guide to caravan towing.

YOUR SAY: How prepared are you on (and off) the road? Did you answer no to any of the above questions? Don’t stick your head in the sand and become another statistic — do something about it now.


feature towing caravan risk safety tips