RV Driving Safety Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road
Kimberly: These RV driving safety tips comes from Darla Preston, our first guest poster at RV Tailgate Life. If you are interested in guest posting on the RV Tailgate Life, check out the guest posting guidelines.
Owning an RV is one of the best and most freeing experiences a travel enthusiast can have. However, the actual act of driving such a large vehicle can be nerve-wracking for even the most confident of drivers.
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Maneuvering an RV takes some getting used to. So it’s important to take the time to learn how to best keep you, your passengers, and anyone you’re sharing the road with as safe as possible. After all, smoothly arriving at your destination is the foundation to an exciting and beautiful adventure.
That being said, here are a few RV driving safety tips to help you when you set out on the open road:
Practice Before Long Hauls
It’s natural to be eager to jump into your RV and start sightseeing, especially when you’ve waited a significant amount of time to finally acquire a rig, but it’s important to get comfortable driving such a large vehicle before you plan any major treks. Pushing too far past your comfort zone too quickly can be dangerous.
Getting used to the heavier weight, larger size, and more noticeable blind spots isn’t an overnight process. The best thing to do is to practice driving in safe spots until you have the hang of it. Practicing in vacant areas, such as large empty parking lots, is a great way to get adjusted without worrying about running into heavy traffic. This way, you can take the time to learn how to best adjust your seat and mirrors, make turns, stop with enough distance, and park efficiently.
When you feel like you are ready to practice out in the streets, stick to areas where you are familiar with the lay of the land. You’ll require more time and distance to come to a stop, so it’s safer if you stick to roads where there aren’t any surprise stop signs or merging lanes.
Lastly, when you’re ready to head out on your first trip, it’s a good idea to plan a short vacation that’s not terribly far away. Even if you feel ready to go across the country, planning a quick, close trip will be a great way for you to gauge if there are any areas with your driving that you need to improve on before traveling a far way to unfamiliar territory.
Be Mindful of RV Awnings While Driving
It’s important to always double check that your RV awning is firmly secured before heading down the road. If your awning were to fly open and high winds were to cause it to detach from your RV, your rig could suffer from damage and, even worse, it could cause injury to you or others on the road. It’s important to always read the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to best secure the awning before travel, and it may be a good idea to look into additional awning latches and locks.
On a similar note, glare from the sun can obstruct your view while driving, making it difficult to see and preventing you from noticing possible hazards on the road. There are many RV shade accessories to help you drive more comfortably and in a safer manner when strong sun rays are piercing through your windows. Visors, pull-down shades, and window tinting are a few options you can explore. Just remember to look for products that will block the sun without further obstructing your view while driving, as some window covers are meant to be used while driving and others are intended to be used while the RV is parked.
See Also: 10 Tips to Stay Cool While RV Tailgating
Research RV Driving Routes In AdvanceRemember that RVs are taller and heavier than traditional vehicles, and this means that certain tunnels, overpasses, bridges, and narrow, curvy roads won’t be able to accommodate them. Along certain routes, RVs are even banned, as it can be dangerous if you attempt to drive one through them.
This is why planning your route in advance is important. RV-specific atlases and apps, such as Copilot, will help you choose from routes that are 100% RV-friendly.
See Also: How Tall is Your RV? RV Clearance Tips
Don’t Drive Aggressively
Aggressive driving is never a good idea, and this sentiment is particularly true when operating an RV, especially when you’re fairly new to driving one. Make slow and careful lane changes, turns, and stops, and try to stay in the right lane as much as possible. This will allow you to drive slower and more carefully, allowing smaller, faster vehicles to pass you if necessary.
Remember that you’re going to have larger blind-spots than with a traditional vehicle, so make sure that you put your turn signal on well in advance so that any person following closely behind you can take notice. You can also purchase a round rearview mirror head or a rearview video camera to expand your view significantly. Additionally, always brake slowly so that anyone behind you has enough time to react safely.
If someone from behind is pushing for you to move faster than you are comfortable with on a road where they can’t pass you, don’t be afraid to pull over in the next turnout (with advanced notice of course) and allow them to go in front of you.
Remember Fatigue Is Dangerous While Driving
RVers love to travel, so it’s understandable why you’d want to keep pushing through town after town until you get to your next destination. That being said, it’s extremely important to be self-aware of your own energy levels, as driving fatigue causes motor-vehicle accidents every year. Your reaction time is slowed down when you’re exhausted, as is your ability to stay alert.
If you feel yourself getting drowsy and losing steam, don’t be afraid to pull in at a rest stop for a quick break or stop at an RV park, motel, or Walmart (one that allows RVs to park and stay) for the night. You can always resume your trek after a few hours of solid rest.
Research Upcoming Weather Conditions
Driving through hazardous weather significantly increases your chances of being in an accident, so always take the time to research the upcoming weather conditions of all of the routes you’ll be traveling through before embarking on your adventure. A bit of preparedness can save your life, and if you want to be as cautious as possible, consider investing in a weather-alert radio.
Many experienced RVers swear by these radios, as they are designed to alert you in real time with details of any approaching weather threats. These could give you adequate time to seek shelter and plan for safety. While your phone can alert you in some cases, if the phone lines were down, your phone were to die, or you were driving in an area without service, a battery-operated radio will continue to keep you informed.
Make Sure Your RV Is Road-Ready
There are few things as frustrating and costly than experiencing severe mechanical issues while you’re far from home on the road. Making sure your RV is well-maintained before hitting the road should be a given, but it’s easy to be so excited about starting your travels that you fail to give it an in-depth look.
Especially if you’ve bought a used RV, taking it into a trusted mechanic for a full check-up can help assure you that your rig is road-ready, and if there are any major causes for concern, you can address these before your RV breaks down on the side of the road. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is a crucial step that can prevent a myriad of potential problems.
Take an RV Driving Class
Hopefully these tips give you a few ideas on how to best get comfortable operating your RV, but they are no replacement for a real RV driving class. There are many experienced instructors who offer driving lessons all over the country that can help you get comfortable behind the wheel, as well as learn how to hook up and use all of the amenities your rig comes equipped with.
Just like with learning any new skill, getting adjusted to your RV takes practice and patience. But once you feel the freedom of sailing down the dusty road with new sights and experiences ahead of you, all of the effort will feel more than worth it. Happy travels!