Towing on the open road is easy when the tow vehicle and trailer are well matched and set up, which also makes it easy to find yourself driving at the same speeds you would without a trailer. Bad move.

One aspect of towing that you must constantly be aware of is the dramatic difference in vehicle acceleration and stopping caused by the added weight of the trailer. For example, a full-size, four-door pickup going 60 mph (88 feet per second) typically stops in about 150 feet in an emergency braking situation on dry pavement.

Add a 4500-pound trailer package to the equation and that distance can easily be 220 feet--a difference of 70 feet or 47 percent. If a vehicle stops suddenly in front of you or a deer enters the roadway, 70 feet will make a big difference in whether you can stop in time.

As a guide to safe speeds, apply the four-second towing rule--leave at least four seconds between your vehicle and the one ahead at whatever speed you're driving, when road conditions are good. Leave six seconds of distance when conditions are bad.

Acceleration is also affected by the additional weight of a trailer. It takes almost twice as long for a vehicle towing a medium-size boat or tow hauler to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, or from 30 to 50 mph, than it does without a tow.

Towing requires undivided driver attention. That means turn off the cell-phone, quit fiddling with the navigation system and stereo, and do not be involved in any other activity other than concentrating on the road ahead and your immediate surroundings. You have to constantly be thinking a good half-mile ahead when towing any trailer.

The biggest challenge when towing for the first time is changing driving style. Slow down and be attentive to your surroundings and people sharing the road. Do that and you'll find towing trailers is actually easy--even for a first-timer.

Minimum Safe Following Distance
25 mph 37 feet 148 feet 222 feet
35 mph 52 feet 208 feet 312 feet
45 mph 66 feet 64 feet 396 feet
55 mph 81 feet 24 feet 486 feet
60 mph 88 feet 352 feet 528 feet
65 mph 97 feet 384 feet 576 feet