Vehicle towing – legal basics and practical advice


Theoretically, towing a vehicle is something that most drivers with many years of experience have dealt with. It might seem that towing is no art, but it is a real treat to meet vehicles on the road that are used with markings and their drivers who comply with road traffic regulations. However, it is worth knowing here how to tow or be towed in order to do it in accordance with the law and art.

Most of them make cardinal mistakes, fortunately, the police turn a blind eye to various details, looking at the two of them as people who still have problems.

How do I tow a vehicle correctly?

General rules

The very introduction informs the reader that the law applies to the towing driver and, according to this, he is responsible for everything that happens in the towing-towed tandem. The legislator mentions that a towed vehicle must have a person licensed to drive the vehicle, and does not mention the towing vehicle, as it is obvious. Nevertheless, this alone makes it clear that the responsibility rests with the tower.

It is also forbidden to tow on the motorway. Only special tugboats are allowed to do so and they can do it only to the nearest parking lot or motorway exit.

Technical rules

The technical requirements for a towing and towed vehicle are something where many drivers make mistakes. Suffice it to mention that the towing vehicle must have its dipped headlights on (not the daytime running lights) and neither must have the hazard lights on. It seems obvious that the combination of vehicles should prevent the towline from detaching while driving (excluding motorbikes). In addition, the towed vehicle and the tow area itself should be specially marked. There are also many bugs here.

The warning triangle should be mounted outside the vehicle on the left side *, not in the center and behind the rear window. In the period of insufficient visibility, the position lights should also be on. The triangle can be replaced by a device sending yellow flashes, visible to other road users. I am talking about the so-called roosters.

The distance between the vehicles must be no more than 3 m with a rigid connection or between 4 m and 6 m with a flexible connection. The connection should also be marked alternately with white and red stripes, or a yellow or red flag should be attached to it. This second provision is hardly followed by anyone, and yet it is important from the point of view of security.

While it seems natural that the towing vehicle should be technically fully functional, the towed technically functional is no longer by definition. However, it must have an efficient steering and braking system, unless the method of towing precludes the use of these mechanisms. However, even in a rigid connection, at least one brake circuit in the towed vehicle should be operational. If the operation of any of these systems depends on the engine running, then of course the engine must be running while towing.

From the point of view of the law

There is a section on towing vehicles in the Highway Code in Chapter 5. Article 31 states:

  1. The driver may tow a motor vehicle only if:
  • the speed of the towing vehicle does not exceed 30 km / h in built-up areas and 60 km / h outside of these areas;
  • the towing vehicle has the dipped headlights on also when the visibility is sufficient;
  • a towed vehicle carries a driver authorized to drive the vehicle unless the vehicle is being towed in such a way that it is not necessary to drive it;
  • the towed vehicle is connected to the towing vehicle in such a way that it cannot be detached while driving; this does not apply to towing the motorcycle, which should be connected to the towing vehicle by a flexible connection in such a way that it can be easily detached;
  • a towed vehicle, with the exception of a motorcycle, is marked on the left rear with a warning triangle and the position lamps are also switched on during periods of poor visibility; instead of being marked with a reflective triangle, the towed vehicle may send yellow flashing signals visible to other road users;
  • in a vehicle towed on a rigid connection, at least one brake system is operational, and in a vehicle towed on a flexible connection – two systems;
  • the distance between the vehicles is not more than 3 m with a rigid connection, and from 4 m to 6 m with a flexible connection, the connection being marked alternately with white and red stripes or a yellow or red flag; this provision does not apply to towing vehicles of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland.
  1. It is forbidden to tow:
  • a vehicle with malfunctioning steering system or malfunctioning brakes, unless the method of towing precludes the need to use them;
  • a vehicle with a flexible connection, if the vehicle’s braking system operation depends on engine operation, and the engine is stationary;
  • more than one vehicle, except for an articulated vehicle;
  • a vehicle with a trailer (semi-trailer);
  • on a motorway, with the exception of being towed by vehicles intended to be towed to the nearest exit or service area.

Traffic rules

Vehicles must not exceed a speed of 60 km / h outside built-up areas and 30 km / h in built-up areas. It is worth noting that towing at 80 km / h in built-up areas may result in the withdrawal of a driving license driving the towing vehicle.