As Bank Holiday madness approaches, mass congestion is predicted, with the AA estimating that more than 15 million vehicles will take to the roads to make the most of the end of summer. With traffic at its height, breaking down can be even more of a pain (who wants to be that person who blocked the motorway for hours?).
The best way to avoid being “that” person is to make sure that your vehicle is in good condition before you set off; this includes checking tyres, coolant and oil. If in doubt, head to a local garage, tell them about any concerns you have or ask them to give you a service. In the event that you do need to call roadside assistance and you have to be towed, it can pay to know what you are doing. Being towed is an unusual experience and, as with all road usage, comes with its own set of rules.
Rules for towing a broken down vehicle
Both the person in the towing vehicle and the one in the vehicle being towed are responsible for making sure that the following conditions are met:
- Display an “on tow” sign at the back of the towed vehicle
- If the vehicle is being towed by a rope or chain, the gap between the two should be less than 4.5 metres. If the rope is more than 1.5 metres long, then it needs to be clearly visible to road users (if you have a high vis vest, a quick fix is to tie it securely to the tow rope)
- The person “driving” the towed vehicle must hold a valid driving licence
- The towing vehicle should act as it would if it wasn’t being towed e.g. indicate, and use appropriate lights if it is dark or there is poor visibility.
Tips for being towed
Being behind the wheel of a vehicle that is being towed is not as simple as just sitting there. You need to make sure that the vehicle stays safe throughout the journey. Before you start, release the handbrake and turn the ignition to “on”. By turning the ignition, you will remove the steering lock, which will make it easier for you to steer.
Your aim is to echo exactly what the towing vehicle does. This includes braking and steering; you want to keep the tension between the two cars as steady as possible. Keep an eye on lights (indicators etc) to give you a clue as to what the towing driver will do next; they should be going slowly and steadily enough to let you keep up with their manoeuvres. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security; as long as you are behind the wheel, you are responsible for your safety, as well as that of other road users.