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Safe RV Operating Tips

July 16, 2008  |  Difficulty: Easy

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Everyone Arrives Safely Every Time

While it’s true that you can legally operate a Recreational Vehicle with any basic Class A driver’s license, and driving one isn’t that much more challenging than getting behind the wheel of a large SUV, RVs handle very differently than a car. Their size and mass make accelerating dramatically slower and you’ll need more time to slow or come to a stop. In addition, most RVs are not going to corner and maneuver with the agility that you’re used to having in a sedan. Keep yourself and travel companions safe – along with your fellow drivers – by adhering to these safe RV operating tips.

Check your mirrors. Check all of your mirrors frequently. You might also want to consider adding those ‘fisheye’ mirror attachments that provide an extended field of vision. Also, get in the habit of always signaling turns and lane changes. Letting other drivers know where you plan to go is both courteous and smart.

Illuminate your blind spots. Because RVs have blind spots on both sides and at the rear, you can’t rely entirely on mirrors to get your bearings on the road. Have passengers lend a hand, and add another pair of eyes. Crane your neck around and use the full potential of side window vision.

Back off that bumper. Tailgating is never a good idea when you’re behind the wheel of a bus-sized RV. Your vehicle is much heavier than a car and requires a significantly longer distance to stop. Remember the three-second rule from Driver’s Ed? You might want to consider staying four or five seconds back. You should also maintain a speed at or under the posted limit and play close attention to brake lights. Always be prepared to stop.

Kick the tires. Before heading out on that dream vacation, check all of your RV’s tires for the right amount of inflation, and tread depth and wear. Maintaining inflation and regularly rotating your RV’s tires will keep you rolling right along. Driving the speed limit and refraining from overloading your RV are also effective ways to prevent excessive wear.

Stowe your gear. Because gravity weighs more heavily on an RV than it does on cars and light trucks, you need to pay special attention to cargo distribution. The load should be evenly distributed as well as properly secured. Store your heavier items as close to the ground as possible. If you have more than a few, space them so that weight is roughly equal on both sides of the RV. This will enhance road handling and stopping power.

Travel light. With all that modern RVs are capable of carrying, the temptation is to cram every square inch of storage space with stuff. But that’s not necessarily the best approach for safe travel. An overloaded vehicle has been documented as the #1 contributor to breakdowns.  Consider that insurance claims have been denied to those who exceed the vehicle’s maximum payload. Before leaving on a trip reacquaint yourself with your RV’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (the most your RV was designed to weigh) and the Gross Combined Weight Range (the maximum combined weight your RV can tow and/or carry).

Buckle up. Always wear safety belts. It’s the law in nearly every state, and essential to keeping everyone safe in the event of an accident.

Stay sharp. If you’re new to RVing, or haven’t been behind the wheel in a while, practice your driving, stopping, accelerating and parking on a low-traffic thoroughfare to get a better feel for the type of driving that you’re about to embark upon. Remember: Practice makes perfect!

Move ahead. With all the blind spots concentrated to the rear of your RV, backing up can be more trouble than it’s worth. Park and make turns as if backing isn’t an option. Often times, parking lots present opportunities where pulling in and out of a space can be accomplished by always moving forward. Sure, you might have to walk a bit to the store. But it’s better than having to ask a member of your party to get out and direct you while backing out of a space.

Plan for every possibility. Some people enjoy making impulsive decisions while traveling, and that approach can considerably enhance the adventure aspect of any trip. But not everything unexpected is welcome. Here are a few points for even the most freewheeling tourists to consider:
  • Travel routes that keep you on major highways not currently under construction. Stay off the poorly maintained secondary roads.
  • Avoid rush hour traffic in major cities.
  • Make contingencies for foul weather.

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