Runaway trailer causes five-mile traffic jam on M25

Tow-tally avoidable

HIGHWAYS England has urged drivers to ensure anything being towed is properly connected to their cars after a runaway trailer brought traffic to a standstill on the M25.

CCTV footage released by the government-run company shows the trailer rolling down an eastbound stretch of the M25 motorway near Westerham in Kent, close to the county’s border with Surrey. While the clip doesn’t show the moment the trailer decoupled from the car, the unmanned carriage can be seen rolling along the road, crossing all three lanes and causing the following traffic to slow to a crawl.

According to Highways England the trailer caused a five mile tailback, with queues holding up traffic along that stretch of motorway for up to 40 minutes before normal service was resumed.

In an attempt to ensure incidents like this don’t happen in future, Highways England implored motorists who tow items such as trailers, horse boxes and caravans to make sure whatever they’re attaching is properly secured. It also recommends drivers have the necessary licence and insurance cover for towing, to make sure the vehicle and trailer are properly loaded, and that they are within their respective weight limits.

Stuart Lovatt, Highways England’s strategic road safety lead, said: “Thankfully incidents like the one featured in this video are very rare but now is the time to remind motorists of the need to make sure you have carried out proper checks and have loaded the trailer or vehicle correctly.”

He added: “We have all sorts travelling on our network including horse boxes, trailer tents and leisure vehicles such as boats and caravans. Our message today is really simple, check it before towing it. So that everyone gets home, safe and well.”

Highways England (which chairs the government’s National Towing Working Group) has published the following tips for motorists to consider when they’re towing loads on the public road.

  • Reduce the risk of inherent instability by making sure the outfit is correctly matched (car suitable for the caravan or trailer load) and that it’s correctly loaded, including very importantly that the nose weight is sufficient.
  • Choose a car and caravan/ trailer with stability aids, but don’t rely on them to correct an inherently unstable outfit. They will, however, make a safe outfit safer still.
  • Drive within the speed limits for towing – 60mph on a motorway unless signage state slower. Take particular care when going downhill and/or overtaking to ensure that speed does not build up excessively.
  • Reduce speed if conditions are not favourable (e.g. crosswinds).
  • Maximise the distance between those you are overtaking, or those overtaking you, and the caravan/ trailer by using the available lane width (with due regard for vehicles in other lanes).
  • If instability still occurs, do not brake and do not accelerate in an attempt to ‘pull the outfit straight’, as this is likely to result in the return of instability at an even greater speed. Instead ease off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop. Let the steering wheel twitch; do not try to steer against the motion of the car.
  • Following an instability scare, check all possible contributory factors, and address any which are not optimum to ensure no re-occurrence.

The runaway trailer on the M25 isn’t the only recent example of the possible dangers drivers need to be aware of when they’re towing. Earlier this month, the Queensland Police in Australia released extraordinary dash cam footage of a driver rolling his vehicle after losing control while towing a caravan.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Huge crash for Australian caravanner while overtaking in Queensland