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Know Before You Tow: How To Safely Pull A Boat

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Boaters are getting out to Utah lakes over the long holiday weekend. Sadly, fatal crashes involving trucks pulling a trailer are two times higher during the summer months, according to Zero Fatalities specialist Katie Marble.

Before you hit the water, Marine Products manager Jeremy Thornell reminds people, safety comes first.

“Nine months of the year, most people aren’t towing a trailer, so they get out there for the three months of the summer and they quickly forget a few things,” he said.

Towing a boat behind a truck takes extra skill and caution. First, he urges drivers to slow down and give yourself extra distance.

“You don’t stop as fast when you’re pulling a trailer,” he said. “Depending on the brakes on the trailer, it could double your distance to stop.”

He encourages drivers towing a trailer to give themselves anywhere from eight to ten car count distance between you and the car in front of you.

He takes wide turns and watches his mirrors for other cars and people.

“If you notice I go really wide so that car is going to be a good distance for me and the vehicle and the trailer,” Thornell demonstrated.

Thornell also encourages people to make sure they are using the proper equipment for your boat and trailer and that everything is correctly secured before taking off.


Boat Towing Checklist:

  1. Match the correct ball size for the trailer hitch
  2. Make sure the ball and hitch are seated correctly and the pin is placed
  3. Check tire tread and pressure
  4. Attach the safety cables
  5. Test the trailer lights
  6. Measure the height of the trailer
  7. Balance the weight of the load correctly to prevent the trailer from swaying

Next, Thornell tells people to change the tires on their trailer every five years.

“You’ll look at a trailer tire and you’re like, ‘wait, it looks great,’ because you are not using it enough,” he explained. ”The tread will look fantastic, but the sidewall will be all cracked and weathered.”

Both old tires and low tire inflation can lead to blowouts on the highway.

“You don’t want to be on the side of the highway having all these cars go past you really fast,” Thornell said.

Thornell also tells people to find the right sized hitch balls for the weight of your boat. He said every boat has a tow rating and if you tow a boat that weighs more than your rating, it could be more difficult to stop quickly or your trailer might fishtail down the highway.

He said ball height is also important when you’re connecting the boat to the trailer. Thornell said you want to make sure the trailer is as level as possible.

“If you’re down too much, it creates a lot of tongue weight, and it will make the boat float a little bit when you’re towing,” creating unnecessary rocking and wears out your tires more quickly.

He also encourages drivers to make sure they are not towing on an old, rusty hitch. He said the hitch could break creating dangerous problems on the road.

Thornell said it’s important to make sure you hook the safety and light cables on the trailer properly, so motorists behind you can identify when you are reversing.

“If you got into a rollover or anything at high speeds, the survival rate is not something you ever want to get into,” he said.

Thornell encourages other drivers on the road to also give trailers extra space and drive responsibly.

“Pay attention. Don’t be looking at your cell phone, your radio – none of that kind of stuff,” he said.

Thornell said people don’t need a license to tow a boat behind a vehicle, but he encourages people to practice towing a trailer in an empty parking lot to avoid jackknifing.

KSL 5 TV Live