Tips for RV Safety: How to Avoid Common Accidents

Driving an RV is like driving a small house around the country—down highways, through back roads, and up and over mountain passes.

Did you know the height of your RV? Pictured above one of several covered bridges on Ohio's Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you know the height of your RV? Pictured above one of several covered bridges on Ohio’s Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it becomes increasingly important that RVers have a basic understanding of common RV accidents and how best to avoid them.

Before you hit the road, ensure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

The proper maintenance of your recreational vehicle is a key to keeping you on the road to safety. An RV that’s mechanically sound will be less apt to break down.

Most of the common RV accidents can be avoided by preventative maintenance and proactive attentiveness.

While the hazards are numerous, taking simple steps to avoid them is much easier than finding yourself facing the consequences of an RV accident or mishap.

Knowing the most common mistakes and having the knowledge to prevent them will keep RV drivers safe and their trip enjoyable.

Awnings are the number one repair for RV maintenance and repair companies. Drivers that forget to retract and lock their awning in the evenings, or sometimes before they start driving away, will quickly discover that awnings aren’t designed to withstand high winds.

When entering or departing a camping site check your surroundings for low branches, obstacles sticking out of the ground, and other hazards. Pictured above Sesquicentennial State Park, affectionately known to locals as "Sesqui", is a spacious, green getaway in the heart of the South Carolina Sandhills region near Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When entering or departing a camping site check your surroundings for low branches, obstacles sticking out of the ground, and other hazards. Pictured above Sesquicentennial State Park, affectionately known to locals as “Sesqui”, is a spacious, green getaway in the heart of the South Carolina Sandhills region near Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accidents such as fires or lack of clearance can cost more than just the expense of the RV repair—such disasters can harm the traveling family as well.

Know Your Height

Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving.

Hitting bridges and overhangs or misjudging the amount of clearance beneath an overpass or inside a tunnel can put an immediate stopper on your road trip.

In order to keep your RV in one piece and avoid getting hung up—literally— consider the following guidelines:

  • Pay close attention to posted clearance measurements
  • Know the height of your RV and place a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact height (remember to include A/C)
  • “We’ll probably fit” does not cut it—don’t take the risk

Also be aware that the typical width of an RV is 8.5 feet and the typical highway lane is 10 feet in width. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

Tighten Up: Conduct a Pre-Drive Safety Check

Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up or steps extended. Create a step-by-step checklist, and like a pilot on a jet, conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away.

A pre-departure checklist should include the following:

Pack and secure all outside items, e.g. store mats, chairs, grills, and bikes

Ensure bay doors are closed, latched, and locked

Slide out rooms fully retracted and secured

Secure all loose items, e.g. toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker, dishes

Kitchen cabinet drawers, closet doors, and refrigerator closed and securely latched

Ensure stove, oven, heater burners, and refrigerator are in off position

Turn off water pump and water heater

Power cord, cable or satellite TV cable, water and sewer hoses disconnected and stowed securely

Lower roof vents

TV antenna, jacks, steps, and awnings fully retracted

Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels

Turn propane off at the tank

Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required; inspect tires checking for cracks and uneven tread wear

Some road are best explored in the toad after parking the RV. Pictured above Mokee Dugway (elevation 6,426 feet) looking south to the Valley of the Gods (Utah), an 1,100 feet drop in 3 miles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some road are best explored in the toad after parking the RV. Pictured above Mokee Dugway (elevation 6,426 feet) looking south to the Valley of the Gods (Utah), an 1,100 feet drop in 3 miles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tow bar and safety cables in place

Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational

Check under the rig for signs of fluid leaks

Checking your surroundings for hazards before departure, e.g. weather, low branches, and obstacles sticking out of the ground

Check campsite to ensure it’s clean and no items are left behind

Final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving for your next destination

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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