The Bank Holiday weekend was the stage for a successful police operation to educate drivers of caravans on safety issues.
As we approach the end of the summer, all the statistics point to 2009 being a record year for caravan journeys. Many of these new recruits however may be unfamiliar with essential safety rules when towing for the first time, while even seasoned caravanners could be putting themselves at unnecessary risk.
With this in mind the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) and the Highways Agency set up at the Strensham service station on the M5 southbound on Friday 28 August to stop and advise caravans.
Codenamed Operation Velopy the event was a collaboration across the industry, with the Caravan Club, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VSOA) and the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme all involved.
The operation was a real success with 22 caravans stopped, examined and weighed. The most serious faults found during the multi agency operation were as follows:
* Six caravans had no rear lights. This meant other road users had no warning that the vehicle in front was stopping or about to pull out.
* Two caravans had dangerously worn tyres which were bald in parts.
* A number of cars had different registration plates on their vehicles to those displayed on the caravan they were towing.
* One caravan was 31 per cent overweight making it almost impossible for the driver to control.
* One driver was stopped for failing to have the appropriate booster seats and child restraints fitted for his three young children.
* Most crucially, two suspected stolen caravans were also identified and another 130 checked by staff from the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme.
The most common problem was caravans being pulled by vehicles with no towing mirrors – essential for extending the drivers line of vision and reducing so called ‘blind spots’. Almost all of the vehicles examined failed this basic requirement with drivers unaware of the need to fix them when towing.
Throughout the day, the Caravan Club gave general advice to drivers, while Highways Agency staff provided drivers with up to the minute travel advice and other tips on safer towing.
Sergeant Dean Caswell was present on the day on behalf of the Central Motorway Police Group, and he commented “Friday’s operation was very successful. We were able to educate drivers and occupants about safer towing, ensure that vehicles were road worthy and were able to remind drivers of their legal obligations when towing caravans.”
“Although we did not set out to cause disruption and delays to people’s holidays, I strongly believe that if CMPG and our partners did not take the action we did, some families may never have reached their holiday destination.”
There are a wealth of tips online on the subject of safer towing. Click here for a helpful safety DVD from the Highways Agency entitled “Fit to Tow” presented by Carol Smillie.