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Trailers are necessary for many people in West Virginia. People use trailers that attach to passenger vehicles for transporting animals, cargo, debris, vehicles, furniture, work tools and more. Attaching a trailer to a vehicle, however, comes with many important laws and safety regulations. Breaking these laws could lead to a weak towing connection, loss of the trailer and a related auto accident.
In West Virginia, all trailer owners must register their trailers before towing them behind vehicles. An owner will visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register the trailer annually, bi-annually or for life. The price of trailer registration will depend on the trailer’s weight and how long the owner wishes to register. Upon registration, the DMV will give the owner a license plate to affix to the trailer before towing. These license plates will say, “permanent.” If the owner purchases a used trailer, he or she must buy new license plates.
Before someone can register a trailer in West Virginia, he or she must show proof of insurance. Insurance is a requirement for trailer towing. Trailer owners must insure their trailers as they would their motor vehicles. Insuring the trailer can help the owner pay for damages if he or she causes an accident. Most owners can add their trailers to their existing auto insurance policies. The DMV will ask for proof of insurance before registering a trailer.
Trailers for towing cannot exceed West Virginia’s dimension restrictions. Doing so could lead to an unsafe trailer that could cause accidents. A trailer cannot exceed a total length of 65 feet, including bumpers and couplings. The maximum width of a tow trailer is 96 inches, with some exceptions. The law may permit a trailer width of 102 inches on some roads if it excludes mirrors. The max height is 13 ½ feet.
No driver may tow a trailer unless it meets West Virginia’s equipment requirements. A trailer weighing 3,000 pounds or more must have brakes when operated on a highway. The brakes must be sufficient enough to properly stop and control the trailer from inside the cab of the towing vehicle. The brakes must have a proper connection in that the brakes will automatically engage if the trailer breaks away from the vehicle. The trailer must be able to stop at 14 feet per second if it has brakes on all wheels or 10.7 feet per second if it does not have brakes on all wheels.
Other required equipment includes a trailer hitch, drawbar, emergency chain, one red brake light and rear reflectors. A trailer that is missing required safety equipment may be unfit for the road. No brake lights, for example, could lead to another driver failing to notice the trailer braking and crashing into the back of the trailer. A trailer owner must also be careful to ensure the reliability of the connection between the trailer and the vehicle. The trailer may separate from the hitch and break away if the owner was negligent in ensuring the strength of the connection.
It is critical for the owner of a trailer to follow related safety laws and rules in West Virginia. They are in place to protect others on the roadway. If an owner breaches any of his or her duties of care, such as by breaking the state’s trailer laws, the owner could be liable for a related car accident. Victims involved in West Virginia trailer accidents should contact an experienced West Virginia car accident attorney for advice about how to prove the liability of the trailer’s owner or vehicle operator. The person in charge of maintaining, inspecting, attaching and controlling the trailer may be responsible for causing the accident if he or she breached a duty of care. A violation of West Virginia’s trailer laws could serve as evidence in a car accident case.