In this article, I will cover how to avoid the most common RV mishaps, including a few good videos. Whether you are new to RVing, or have been doing it for years, everyone will learn something from this article!
Recreational vehicles (RV) of all kinds including camper vans, fifth wheels, motorhomes and toy haulers are a very popular way to travel and vacation all across North America, and in fact, around the entire world. RV accidents are a real risk, however, as they are prone to problems such as blind spots, extended braking distance and lack of maneuverability, etc. Federal law requires that all SUVs, charter buses and semi-trucks go through crash and rollover tests but not RVs. Even so, obviously accidents can happen regardless of crash tests.
There are many common causes of RV accidents: One of the biggest problems is the fact that states do not require that drivers receive special training or permits to drive an RV. Also, approximately 10 percent of RV drivers are senior citizens over the age of 55. This age cohort has increased impediments to driving, such as weakening vision and delayed response to driving conditions.
Most common causes of RV accidents
Although some of these common causes of RV accidents overlap with causes of car accidents, they are exacerbated in an RV where sheer size plus reduced visibility and maneuverability increase the risk factors for a crash.
• Inexperienced drivers
Don’t expect to get into a 40′ Motorhome or travel trailer and be an expert in a couple of hours! It takes years of hands on experience to become an expert, and in fact, if you’re not always learning, you’re at risk! You have to have great respect, not fear, when driving your RV! Practice makes perfect!
• Senior drivers
As a senior myself and former OTR Truck Driver, I can tell you that your response time and depth perception DOES change with age! The older you are, the more cautiously you must drive! Reaction times are reduced with age.
Speeding or driving beyond your ability is not only dangerous, it will ultimately result in an accident where you will cause serious injury or death to yourself, a family member or worse, an innocent stranger! Very few RV owners even know what the speed rating for their tires is! Would you be surprised to know that doing 69 mph on some tires is beyond their speed rating? Driving an RV is nothing like a car! If the speed limit sign says 45 mph around the next curve, take it at 40!
• High winds
Wind is an RVers worst nightmare! Especially if you’re towing an ultra-lite travel trailer! I have personally seen many trailers blown over! Even semi trailers are commonly blown over in the north western states. Driving speeds MUST be reduced during high wind situations. Better yet, find a park and camp for the night!
• Overtired drivers
Limiting the amount of time you drive in your RV is always a plus. Remember, you’re on vacation! Take your time and take in the sights! Driving while tired is probably the number one reason for catastrophic RV accidents. I personally plan my trip on the three by three rule; three hours of driving to the next campsite and arrival by 3:00 PM.
• Overloading the RV with too much gear
This is the number one reason for tire failure, mostly on travel trailers. Here is an article to teach you exactly how to weigh your RV correctly and avoid blowouts.
• Rollover caused by higher center of gravity
Most folks new to RVing don’t understand the high center of gravity on both motorhomes and trailers. Turns and curves in the road need to be negotiated as per the highway signage or less. A posted 45 mph curve means just that! I would take it at 40!
• Poorly calculated turns
Making turns with 30′ to 50′ behind you can be very difficult! It takes a lot of practice! The video below will teach you how!
• Miscalculated stopping distances
Heavy vehicles require longer stopping distances! Your stopping distance is considerably reduced in an RV! Triple your following distances and drive smoothly. You’ll find if you see a light in the distance turn red and you let off the accelerator and let the RV slow itself, that light just might be green by the time you get there! Not only will you save on fuel, but also wear and tear and brakes using this method.
• Poorly balanced loads
Knowing how to weigh your RV is imperative to operating safely! Please read this article!
• Failing to see another vehicle
Blind spots are a problem on ALL recreational vehicles! Watch the video below on how to adjust your mirrors!
• Failing to know your height and weight
Knowing your height and weight is your first responsibility owning an RV! Most RVs are between 11′ and 13′ tall, and even small rigs can weigh in at 10,000 lbs or more. Some motorhomes can weigh up 60,000 lbs, though most come in just under 26,000 lbs. All roads and bridges in the USA are required to have weight and height signage. Owning and operating an RV forces YOU to become a professional sign reader! You MUST pay attention to every road sign! Crossing a small rural bridge that has a sign that says 10,000 lb weight limit can be catastrophic! The same goes for many railroad bridges! They were built many years ago when the average height of a semi was 11′.
• Failing to see obstructions, and use a “spotter”
Knowing how to back into an RV site is so simple, yet so many people wind up with insurance claims! Take a moment to park in front of the campsite. Get out and walk the spot, looking for overhead obstructions like tree branches, and fixed obstacles like picnic tables, shore hookups, high curbs and drop offs. When backing into a spot, use your partner to guide you. Make sure your partner knows that if they can’t see YOU in the vehicle mirror, you can’t see THEM! ALWAYS back into the spot on the driver’s side!
So with all that said, how about a few instructional videos?
How To Maneuver a Motorhome
How To use and adjust mirrors
How To handle a blowout! I’ll bet YOU don’t know how!
This video might just save your life!
This is a compilation of RV wrecks.
Learning how to properly drive an RV can prevent these.
Force yourself to watch this!
Be Safe Out There!
I hope the information here will help you to avoid the most common RV mishaps! Please understand that you are driving a home on wheels! Developing safe driving habits is paramount to having a safe and enjoyable camping experience. Remember, these are not like cars! You don’t have steel cages protecting you, and even a small accident in an RV can cause it to self destruct!