Use caution when driving or following livestock trailers

Understanding the consequences of your mistakes on the road can ensure humans’ and animals' safety; it could mean the difference between life and death.

Horses in horse trailer.Recently, a tragic mid-Michigan automobile accident resulted in the loss of the best Christmas present a little girl could receive: her horse. This accident was allegedly caused by an incident of road rage when an impatient driver, frustrated with the slow speed of the truck and horse trailer, cut the truck off sharply. The driver of the trailer was forced to brake suddenly; the horse scrambled, lost its footing and ultimately had to be euthanized.

Karen Waite, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension equine specialist, said this incident demonstrates that many drivers do not realize how challenging it is to drive a truck hauling horses or other livestock, large motorhomes, other recreational vehicles or farming equipment.

“When an accident involves a horse or livestock trailer, both human and animal lives can be lost,” Waite said. “Most drivers don’t realize that the combined weight of the truck, trailer, livestock, horses or equipment makes it extremely difficult for the driver to stop quickly or slow down substantially.”

Livestock producers thinking about the health and safety of their animals while driving tend to drive slightly slower than posted speeds and leave a  great deal of stopping distance between their vehicles and the vehicles in front of them.

Waite suggests that drivers passing a vehicle hauling a trailer should merge back into the lane allowing double the usual amount of space between their vehicles and the vehicle they’re passing.

Although an impatient driver caused this particular incident, several other issues may result in horse trailer accidents. Regular trailer maintenance is a key responsibility of owning and hauling animals, as is using an appropriately sized vehicle to haul the trailer and making certain that those responsible for driving have experience driving such rigs (without animals) before setting out. To learn how to appropriately respond in an emergency while hauling a trailer, view this article on trailer safety.

“None of this information can reverse the loss of this little girl or bring back her horse, but it serves as a reminder to those with or without horses to use the utmost care when traveling,” Waite said.

Related MSU Extension news article: "Take steps to travel safely with your equines"

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