One thing you'll find when looking at the laws regulating towing in the United States is that they often vary widely. It's a good idea to inform yourself of the differences in state towing regulations, especially before you hit the road on an interstate trip. You can find a complete list of towing laws for all 50 states and all Canadian provinces on the Lots More Information page.
All except four states explicitly require a towed trailer be connected by safety chains. These chains are an additional precaution that prevent an unhitched trailer from coming completely loose. Since the four states that don't require your trailer carrying an ATV or motorcycle don't explicitly say you must have them (it's simply not stated in the states' laws concerning towing), it's a good idea to use safety chains when you tow.
Other considerations can come up when traveling through states, depending on what kind of trailer you use to transport your motorcycle or ATV. If you have a covered trailer, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the maximum trailer height limitations from state to state. Thirty-three states have restrictions of trailer heights of 13 1/2 feet, while 16 others allow trailers 14 feet in height. Colorado and Nebraska are the wild cards when it comes to trailer height, with maximum allowable heights of 13 and 14 1/2 feet, respectively. The lesson? State trailer towing laws are not equal. Familiarize yourself with various laws governing allowable trailer dimensions in the states you intend to travel through, to protect yourself against being stuck under a bridge that's too high to pass under. Other measurements like width and length also vary widely by state.
There are some commonalities among states when it comes to towing your motorcycle or ATV. Most states require your trailer have reflective plates on the rear and sides of the trailers. Many states also require that trailers have brake lights, turn signals and tail lights. As a trailer owner, it's up to you to ensure these lights are maintained and functioning properly. If they aren't, you could face a citation.
Forty-seven states and all Canadian provinces have trailer towing laws that observe reciprocity. This means that if your towing set-up is legal in your state, an infraction of the laws of the state you're visiting can be overlooked. So if you're from Illinois and your 8 1/2-foot-wide trailer is touring through Arizona, where state law dictates residents' trailers can't exceed eight feet in width, you'll most likely get a pass. Beware; this is not the case in Colorado, Delaware and Georgia, where you could get a fine for violating state towing laws, even if your towing set-up is legal in your home state.
There is one aspect of towing that can get you in hot water, regardless of state laws; not having the proper insurance. Read the next page to find out about making sure you're covered before you tow your motorcycle or ATV.