Personality: Ron J. Melancon

Spotlight on founder of Dangerous Trailers, a safety advocacy organization

7/13/2018, 4:04 p.m.
Ron J. Melancon is a passionate voice and advocate for safety and saving lives across the United States and in ...
Ron J. Melancon

Ron J. Melancon is a passionate voice and advocate for safety and saving lives across the United States and in Europe. In 2003, he founded Dangerous Trailers, a grassroots organization to develop and promote uniform standards and inspection laws nationwide for trailers towed by motor vehicles, including utility trailers, horse trailers, recreational travel trailers and van trailers. Presently, only trailers over 3,000 pounds fall within federal guidelines, which require reflectors at the rear of the trailer. Inadequate reflectors are only one of the hazards, Mr. Melancon points out, noting that faulty or no safety chains between the trailer and the car or truck pulling it can cause accidents. And dragging safety chains can spark costly and life-threatening wildfires, he says. That’s where Dangerous Trailers comes in — to “draw attention to the potential dangers of unsafe trailers on roadways,” Mr. Melancon says. His one-man operation collects data on accidents and fatalities caused by unsafe trailers and he pushes it out on the internet to help people change laws in their home states and in other countries. Already, his crusade has achieved victories in Virginia. Through his efforts and those of his legislative sponsors, the General Assembly passed laws in 2004 and 2010 requiring all trailers to use reflectors or reflective tape and to have a locking device that prevents accidental separation of the trailer from the vehicle. “In America, more than 500 people a year are killed and more than 35,000 are injured by a passenger vehicle towing a trailer,” he says. That includes 20 children and adults who will become victims on unsafe hayrides and parade floats, he continues. “This is all preventable.” He says Dangerous Trailers’ public awareness efforts have led to changes in trailer laws in Alabama and Tennessee and new laws regarding hayride safety in Maine. “We have inspired the country of Ireland,” he says, “as now you must have a license to tow a trailer.” England also has established towing standards, he says. “It is very important that voices join together across the world. Those voices are more powerful in our effort to save lives and pass legislation to stop people from getting killed due to unregulated use of trailers.” Mr. Melancon’s efforts started in May 2003 after he rear-ended a low-slung, empty, steel-mesh trailer being towed by a truck. After apologizing to the truck driver and learning the damage “was not that bad,” he took photos that showed the trailer’s rear lights weren’t operational. The case against him was dismissed in court, he says. But he asked the judge what would happen to prevent others from meeting a more harmful fate with unsafe trailers. “He replied, ‘I commend your effort. Keep me updated.’”
After witnessing a loose trailer accident on Richmond’s South Side in which a woman was killed, Mr. Melancon took further steps to research and investigate such incidents. Fixes can be inexpensive, he says. “It only takes an $8 reflector tape to make a safety improvement to the back of a trailer,” he notes. Meet safety advocate and this week’s Personality, Ron J. Melancon: