Yesterday I had to pick Case up in town after school, so I didn't drive home my normal route. When I got home later that afternoon, the Horsetales list serv mentioned an accident involving a horse trailer near a major intersection on my usual route. Apparently, a trailer came loose from the truck and went into traffic, hitting an oncoming vehicle. The chatter on Horsetales mentioned a horse lying on the side of the road, life flight transporting victims, possibly a child ejected from a vehicle. Yes, just another traffic accident but it hit close to home because so many of us frequently pull our own horse trailers.
The ten o'clock news reported three people were taken to the hospital and one had died. No names were released. Although we live near a major metropolitan area, the horse community is small. I worried that the person driving the rig was someone I knew, a horse I had shared a trail with. I know people who live in the area and prayed they weren't in the wrong place at the wrong time and were the ones who were hit. When the names were released this morning, I found I didn't know either family. But felt their pain.
The driver of the rig, a woman, was uninjured. Her horse severly injured was put down at the scene. I was told it was still there this morning, off the side of the road. The man driving the car that was hit survived; his 9 year-old son was in critical condition and his 10 year-old-daughter died at the hospital. The news reported that none of those injured were wearing seatbelts. The father of those children is, no doubt, going through his own private hell. And I'll leave it at that.
Keeping this horse related, the news reports did not mention if the trailer had safety chains. It's easy to assume there weren't any, but after reading some stories online (http://www.dangeroustrailers.org/ ), it's possible that although chains may be required, it might not be a primary offense, so a person cannot be stopped for this offense alone. This same website also said that some states that require chains, do not specify the weight of the chain, so many trailers are ill equipped. In other words, if you see a trailer behind a truck, you just don't know how safe it really is. (Update: a recent news story quotes the Nebraska State Patrol as saying safety chains were in place on the horse trailer.)
While it is easy to questions the decisions made by all those involved, it is important also to remember that accidents happen. We get hurried, sidetracked and sometimes just plain mess up. I know. It happened to me. You might remember when I had a similar accident. I was pulling two horses in my two-horse straight load steel trailer. It was negligence on my part that my trailer was not secured properly. I was distracted when hooking it up and I didn't check my work. My hitch wasn't locked in place. I hit a railroad track going about 50 mph and the trailer popped off the receiver ball. I felt it first and saw what happened in my rear view mirror and immediately started to slow the truck. When the trailer hit the back of my truck, bounced back and hit the truck again, I knew the chains had caught it and was carrying the estimated 4,500 pound load; keeping my horses, other traffic and me safe. I managed to keep it all together until I could get off the road. After yesterday's incident, I wonder if I shouldn't have them checked again. There was some wear; perhaps they were compromised.
I am sad for all involved. I hope I'm not the only horse person thinking about this and if our trailers are safe for not only our horse, but others on the road. Be safe, everyone.