BOISE – For many Americans, Memorial Day represents the start of RV and toy hauler season.  As trailer owners prepare for summer fun, AAA urges the proper use of safety chains to protect other road users and reduce the chance of a wildfire.

“The primary connection between a trailer and a towing vehicle could fail for any number of reasons, including poorly-fitted or loose components,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Trailer safety chains are a critical backup, since many trailers end up being used on bumpy, narrow two-lane roads where the chances of uncoupling can increase dramatically.”

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, there were 172 crashes involving a trailer from 2014-2018 statewide; 153 resulted in property damage, and 8 in injury.

“A runaway trailer is going to continue traveling at high speed until something stops it – a tree, a fence, a ditch, or in the worst-case scenario, another vehicle,” Conde said.  “Safety chains are a simple way to address the issue and help prevent property damage and senseless tragedies.”

Here are AAA’s tips for the use of trailer safety chains:

  • Use two chains and crisscross them in an “X” pattern to provide a cradle for the trailer if it becomes unhooked. 
  • Select chains of an appropriate length.  If they drag on the ground, they could create sparks that ignite dry vegetation along the roadway.  Many trailers are transported into rural areas where an emergency response may be delayed, making fires more difficult to contain.
  • Never twist chains to shorten them – they may accumulate water and rust that could cause them to fail in an emergency.
  • Never park or drive in tall grass.
  • Make sure your hitch system is the right size and strength for the towing job.

“Of course, no one ever wants to put their safety chains to the test,” Conde said.  “But in the moment of truth, you’ll be glad you have them.”