Hitting the open road in an RV is an adventure many travelers enjoy because the freedom and convenience of bringing your lodging everywhere you go allows more time to explore new places. However, driving an RV is a lot different than driving a passenger vehicle. The size of the RV makes handling and maneuvering trickier, and you’ll want to pay special attention to safety concerns as you travel down the highway. While it may be stressful in the beginning, with some practice and experience, you’ll soon feel comfortable in your RV's driver's seat.
A New Set of Dimensions
Know your vehicle’s height, weight and length, and post those numbers near the driver’s seat for ready reference. Some bridges, parking structures and gas station canopies may not be tall enough for you to safely pass; watch for signs showing height . Highways and roads often have length restrictions, especially in national parks. Your RV is much heavier than a passenger vehicle. You’ll need extra time to stop, and swerving to avoid road hazards can be dangerous. When climbing hills, realize that your RV is slower than the vehicles around you. Use turnouts on one-lane roads when there are five cars behind you. Passengers should always wear seat belts when traveling in a motor home.
Fifth-Wheels and Trailers
Always check your hitch before traveling to make sure that everything is secure and properly attached. While driving, check side mirrors often so that you’re aware of traffic around you. Be aware of sway, especially when semitrucks pass you. To minimize the gust of air as a large truck passes, stay to the right of your lane to leave as much space as possible between the two vehicles. Consider installing a sway bar on your hitch. When turning, adjust for the length of your rig. Pull out farther into the intersection before turning left, and swing a bit wider than you do when driving a passenger vehicle.
Driving in Poor Weather
If you spend enough time in your RV, you’re bound to run into bad weather. Driving in a blizzard or windstorm is stressful in any vehicle, but you’ll want to take special precautions when driving your RV. Crosswinds are particularly dangerous when pulling a fifth-wheel or trailer because of their high profile. Keep slow, steady pressure on the brakes to get the trailer to stop swaying. Carry chains and know how to use them before you experience snowy, icy conditions. You’ll need chains for both your towing vehicle and trailer. If your motor home has duel-rear wheels; place chains on one tire on each side. Use low gears while driving downhill on icy roads. In severe weather, consider stopping at a truck stop, motel or campground until the storm passes.
Insuring your RV is different than that of your passenger vehicle. In addition to standard liability and loss replacement, owners of RVs may want to consider adding fire, flood and theft protection. Full-time RV owners can add personal injury insurance, similar to that of a homeowner’s policy. Typical personal property insurance may not cover the value of everything you have in your RV, especially if you’re packing cameras, laptops, tablets and other electronics. Make an inventory of everything and compare its value to your policy, and purchase extra coverage if needed.
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Driving Your RV Safely
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Towing a trailer
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing Third Edition; Brent Peterson
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