DRIVING AN RV SAFELY
So, you’re ready to climb up into the driver’s seat and hit the road. RV Adventure-USA has provided you with your itinerary that lists the route, campgrounds, and activities for your trip. You’ve rented your RV, locked the house up tight, and stocked the RV with all the essentials. Now if you only felt more comfortable mastering that “monster” on the road!
Take heart. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), driving that RV really isn’t all that different from driving your car. Automatic transmissions, power brakes and power steering are practically standard equipment. And, with proper attention to the differences in vehicle size, height, and weight, you might even find that getting behind the wheel of the RV
of your choice is actually fun!
Vacationing in an RV implies that some driving is going to be involved. We highly recommend traveling no more than 300 miles per day. If you have never driven an RV before, you are unaware of how tiring it can be.
We hope the following information is useful for you as you prepare for your trip.
Driving:Many motorhomes are 96 inches wide and some are 102 inches. The location of the driver is such that you cannot see the position of the front wheels very well, and this is bothersome to some folks. Thus, they prefer a Class “C,” with the van type cab, even though it is 96 inches wide behind the cab. One thing we’ve learned driving our motorhome, get comfortable with the position of the motorhome relative to the center highway stripe.
On mountain roads, the front right side of the motorhome is not visible, and you must trust the center stripe, on narrow winding roads this can be a little spooky.
Motorhomes are not like cars, they do not corner well, they do not stop well, and they are slow. Take your eyes off the road and you may find yourself in the next lane without realizing it. All makes are different, and one needs to know how the unit handles, and then drive within those limits. When driving a car, you can drive out of trouble, in a motorhome you do not have this maneuverability, driving mistakes can be difficult to correct. Control of speed is important, as unexpected sharp curves can be real trouble. Know your rig’s capabilities, this is the best advice we can give you. When driving your RV, drive the speed limit posted on curves. When in your car, you may normally drive five to ten miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit and felt safe; you cannot do that in a RV
Going down the road is pretty easy and enjoyable. Trucks for the most part just zoom around you, and you will get use to that. Cars also do not like to stay behind RVs and you can also understand that. When getting into heavy traffic, try to stay in the correct lane and just move with the traffic. Around the big cities try to avoid times when you would expect the work traffic to be heavy, don’t try to leave at seven a.m. A little common sense can go a long way. Road manners are sometimes just non-existent, and you have to stay cool, accept the fact a lot of folks lose patience with RVers quickly. Little do they know, you are probably in their area for the first time and do not know where you are going. You do not have the most maneuverable vehicle in the world, perhaps you cannot see as well as you used to, and are just going too slow for the young people of today. Stay calm.
Fatigue: When you begin to get tired, you are vulnerable and accidents can happen. You can lose your concentration, your nerves can become less steady, and as a result you can become irritable. It is very important that you understand that 8 hours driving a car is a lot easier than 8 hours driving an RV.
Driver fatigue is an issue, which you can manage using a little common sense. When driving with the RV, know your limit as to how far you can drive without getting tired, try to stop every two hours, take a short break, walk around the rig, and check the tires and stretch. Driving an
RV is not like driving a car, and it puts a little more pressure on one to be alert, and aware of your surroundings. Nobody likes to be behind an RV, other drivers are out there trying to pass, creating all kinds of potential accidents; RV drivers have to stay sharp. Try to maintain a highway speed of 60 mph and maintain adequate space from the vehicle in front of you. When you get into camp, you do not want to feel exhausted. If your head is a nodding, you have gone too far. One last thing, you don’t want to be exhausted as parking the rig can be stressful -- the little breaks can help.
Stopping distances are far greater than in a car, learn what your stopping distance is at various speeds, and then do not follow closer than what is safe. Many of the cars today can really stop fast, and a motorhome cannot stop that quickly, hence you must maintain a proper following distance.
Going downhill: Controlling your motorhome going down hills requires some knowledge to ensure you do not overheat your brakes. A good rule of thumb, “whatever gears you used coming up the hill, use those same gears going down”. Use your rig’s gears to control downhill speed, applying brakes sparingly. It is better to apply the brakes firmly, and reduce downhill speed by at least five mph, than to constantly tap the brakes to try to hold a set speed. Use a firm brake application and then let the rig roll; this allows the brakes a chance to cool off a little. Always set the transmission in the correct lower gear at the start of the downhill grade, and try not to mess with shifting gears as you go down the hill. It is best to go slower and get down with cool brakes. If you can smell your hot brakes, you came down the hill incorrectly. We speak from experience, as we have come down some 12% grades, and these can be very dangerous if you are not using your brakes wisely, and allowing your engine to slow you down as well. Once your brakes are hot you are in trouble, so act wisely and take your time.
Increasing speed: Most motorhomes are limited in their ability to quickly gain speed, either from the start, in a passing situation, or entering a busy highway. You need to plan ahead, allowing enough time for you to complete your action. Traveling on two lane roads, where passing is sometimes necessary, one must be careful, I have witnessed a few close calls, where someone did not allow enough space for his passing move.
Towing a vehicle behind your motorhome is very common, and for the most part is not difficult. Allow for the wider turn you will need to make, get comfortable with your mirrors. Realize you have a fifty foot long unit or more and it requires extra room, therefore you cannot make some turns. You need to remember that you can’t put your RV and tow vehicle in some spots, even if you are a good driver. Some of the diesel pushers have a terrific turning radius, and some of the gas powered rigs are terrible, how well you can make a turn depends on the rig, not always the driver.
If your rig is equipped with a rear camera, it can be a real help, otherwise, you have no visibility of the towed vehicle, except when going around a corner. If the towed vehicle has a flat tire or some other mishap, a camera gives you a chance of seeing it. The rear camera is also a great assist in backing into parking spaces.
Parking is best learned by practice with any rig you may have. So we recommend having someone act as your outside guide making sure you do not hit anything. This person can also help you get aligned, started straight, and is an integral part of the parking process. The use of walkie-talkies allows better communication and may be something for you to consider.
DISCLAIMER: Driving any vehicle safely is the responsibility of the driver. This article outlined many driving techniques that we at RV Adventure-USA have found to be helpful and in our opinion make a better and safer driver. We hope that this information makes you a safer driver, but we take no responsibility for how you apply these recommendations.