Towing death highlights danger

The terrible tragedy that resulted in the death of a mother of three on a beach near Geraldton last week highlights once again the dangers of using a snatch-strap to recover bogged vehicles.

The woman, who was sitting in the passenger seat, died when the towball of the vehicle her partner was recovering sheared off and catapulted back through the windscreen, striking her fatally in the throat.



Snatch-straps are like big elastic bands; they use kinetic energy to enable the recovery of a bogged vehicle and it is that stored energy which makes them so dangerous.

When the strap stretches it puts a huge strain on the points where the strap is attached to both the bogged vehicle and the vehicle doing the recovery.

Therefore it is critical that both vehicles are fitted with proper recovery points, preferably attached directly to the chassis.

It is imperative that when a snatch-strap is used it is attached to a point on the vehicle that is capable of withstanding the huge forces applied by the stretching strap - a towball does not meet that criterion.


Snatch-straps are a great recovery tool but, in my opinion, should be a last resort when a vehicle becomes stuck. All too often a snatch-strap or winch is employed when a bit of digging and perhaps something stuffed under the wheels, or even a bit of rocking back and forth, is enough to get the bogged vehicle mobile.

A long-handled shovel should be at the top of everyone's recovery- gear list. Here in WA a big percentage of off-road driving is in sandy conditions and, given enough time and hard work, a shovel (in most cases) will see you mobile again.

If people were aware of the huge forces acting on snatch-straps, winch ropes and tow points when recovering a bogged vehicle, they probably wouldn't go within cooee of any part of the process.

Ideally a rated tow hook is the best option when using a snatch- strap - it means the eye of the strap can be attached directly over the hook without the need for a "D" shackle, which has the potential to become a missile if something fails.

Under no circumstances should "D" shackles be used to join two snatch-straps together. A damper in the form of a wet hessian bag, towel, Driza-Bone coat or a purpose-made cable damper to reduce the recoil of the strap is a must.


After all other avenues have been exhausted to recover a vehicle a snatch-strap recovery should proceed as follows:

• All onlookers need to be well clear of the area, preferably behind a tree or something substantial that will stop a shackle or broken tow point.

• Allow 2-3m of slack in the strap and using first or second gear low-range, have the tow vehicle move off slowly, allowing the strap to become taut so as to use the elasticity in the strap to do the work. The driver of the bogged vehicle should accelerate gently as the strap goes tight to aid the recovery.


If the first attempt fails, repeat the procedure using a little more speed each time. If the vehicle remains stuck, keep digging.

As the Geraldton incident showed, recovery procedures can and do go wrong. Let's try to make that tragic accident the last one.