This article appeared in the 2019 winter edition of The Nomad. It received positive response from numerous members and many suggested it should be made available for other members to download. It is being reproduced with the permission of the author (ACC member) Gordon Colquhoun.

My wife, Jennifer, and I have been caravanning for over 30 years. In recent times, we have had the unfortunate experience of having several of our friends and colleagues involved in mishaps with their vans, from spin outs to rollovers with total destruction. Some have been hospitalized with serious conditions while others have had very minor, if not lesser, injuries.

Whether it is only scratches or cuts and bruises there always remains the loss of confidence to both parties involved.

In almost all cases the comment is “it happened so fast it was over before we knew it”.

The non-driving member said they were helpless to do anything and just surrendered to the result.

I have 12 years’ experience as a Road Safety Officer in SA, in which time I was required to train drivers in all facets of vehicle control on all classes of vehicle.

After some thought of what to do, there appears to be a need to empower the non-driver, even if they do not have a driver’s license. This can be done if it is practiced by both parties, the driver and non-driver alike.

Jenny & I sat down one day and went through an exercise and came up with a method of controlling the car if the driver had a “Medical Episode”. This is something that needs to be practiced with care in a quiet location until it becomes second nature to the non-driver, the one in the passenger seat.

It would also require a consideration of having the electric “brake sender” on the left side of the steering wheel, accessible to the passenger.

As there will be little time to consider the action, practice is paramount.

The procedure is in sequence as follows;

  1. Recognise the signs that something is wrong
  2. Take real action and control, remember you have little time
  3. Direct the vehicle by control of the steering wheel, gently, don’t over react
  4. Slide the gear lever into neutral, if the engine revs, so what.
  5. Apply the caravan brake slowly and gently as you practiced to bring the vehicle to a stop.
  6. Secure the vehicle with the handbrake.
  7. Close down the engine
  8. Get the type of help that is necessary for the particular type of emergency

Jenny & I have practiced this and it works. At this stage we both still hold a driver’s license. It relies on the quick action of the passenger, whoever it is, and with practice.

We started in a quiet seldom used area with plenty of runoff just in case, and progressed up to a main highway with little traffic, getting closer to the real thing.

It may not prevent an accident in every instance, , but it gives Jenny a lot more confidence if something does actually happen.

The last stage is a realistic type situation and the driver says nothing, just let the vehicle drift a little on a quiet road with a safe runoff area, without endangerment, and see if there is a reaction. It can be sudden, so again practice in the right place is the key. If the passenger pulls the rig up safely in a safe position, well done you’re ready for the road with a little more confidence

Recommendations to be considered.

  1. When setting up a rig, consider if the passenger can access the brake sender, this should be on the left of the steering wheel.
  2. Accessing a suitable area to begin practice, remember this is only to be used in an emergency situation
  3. Practice should include all operators of the rig
  4. Ensure all brake systems comply with “Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rules38/00-Towing Brake systems 2006)


Gordon Colquhoun
(MSc  Ergonomics
Grad Dip OHSM
BSc Kinetic Physics)