Long Hauls, Safe Hitches

Summer is the season when we—and many of the things we own—are on the move. From trailers to watercrafts to bikes, there’s no lack of stuff to hitch and haul during the warm-weather months.

That extra weight and bulk, however, comes with potential danger. In 2010 alone, nearly 56,000 passenger vehicle crashes involved a trailing unit. While three-fourths of these crashes only caused property damage, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the remaining quarter resulted in injuries and 340 fatalities.

Keep the roads safe when hauling gear to your next great adventure by observing a few pieces of advice:

  • Choose wisely. With cheaper models being more likely to contain weak tubing that’s susceptible to breakage and poor locking devices, it’s important to choose quality workmanship over an attractive price. Experts recommend hitches that are easy to install (they shouldn’t require any extra tools for assembly) and have a locking clip.

Also, if you’re looking to strap things down, opt for quality tie-down straps with good hooks and ratchets over weaker bungee cords.

  • Find your perfect weight. Consult your vehicle’s manual to determine the maximum weight your auto can handle and make a realistic estimate of how much weight you’ll really be hauling. (If you want to be extra certain, consider paying a visit to a public scale.)
  • Consider enlisting professional help. Not mechanically inclined? Then ask the store from which you bought the hitch for help—oftentimes, their technicians will offer no-cost installation services.

No luck there? Then call up a trusted mechanic or an all-purpose handyman.

  • Do some quality control. Ensure the hitch is properly attached by trying to pull it apart yourself. Also check to see if the weight is evenly distributed and that the air pressure on all tires is up to par. Finally, if you’re hauling a trailer, make sure its brake lights are in good working condition.
  • Drive (extra) safe. First things first: Slow down! Extra weight requires you to drive at nearly half your regular speed and to use extra caution when stopping, changing lanes, turning corners or backing up. You’ll also want to acclimate yourself to accelerating slower, taking wider turns, giving yourself longer brake times and allotting extra space when parking.
  • Take a test run. Not used to driving like this? Then consider taking a few practice turns in a vacant parking lot before you hit the road.

For more tips and tricks, check out Towing a Trailer: Being Equipped for Safety from the NHTSA.

ERIE goes the extra mile

Your car isn’t the only thing making the effort this season. Your ERIE auto coverage is as well with 30 additional features available to you at no extra charge or premium when you purchase comprehensive Coverage.

Though we hope you never need to use any of them, you can take comfort in knowing these services are there if you find yourself in these situations:

  • Stuck. ERIE will pay up to $75 per named insured (including meals and lodging) if you’re unable to reach your destination because of a covered loss under your policy.*
  • Out of a car. If you have an accident or covered loss, ERIE will take care of your transportation costs to rent a car, hop a bus or grab a taxi immediately after an incident.**
  • At a loss. You’ll be reimbursed up to $350 for any personal belongings lost as a result of a covered loss.
  • Locked out. ERIE will pay $50 for a locksmith to stop by.*

And then there’s the diminishing deductible, meaning that ERIE will completely waive your deductible:

  • If your windshield is repaired (rather than replaced).***
  • If you get in an accident with another ERIE driver* or if a non-ERIE driver is solely liable and has adequate liability coverage.
  • If there are reasonable first aid expenses to people and animals at the time of an accident.

Diana Schneidman, CPCU, CLU, is a freelance writer in Schaumburg, Ill. She is in awe of anyone who hops behind the wheel of a trailer since she dreads simply parallel parking her car on busy Chicago streets.

The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions, and exclusions. Eligibility for insurance coverage will be determined at the time of application, based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time. Information regarding additional terms, conditions, exclusions, licensure and territory information is available at erieinsurance.com.

*Not applicable in North Carolina.
**Restrictions apply in North Carolina.
***Additional premium required in Illinois and New York.

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