RV Safety Tips for Summer Travelers

RV travel is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways to vacation and August is prime camping season.

Writing On Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta

Don’t start pulling out the sweaters yet. There’s still a full month of summer to enjoy. Pictured above Writing On Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 20 million Americans will travel in RVs this summer heading to our country’s 16,000-plus campgrounds, and enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

If you’re planning one last road trip before the summer ends, keep in mind that driving a recreational vehicle is not like driving a typical car or truck.

The added size, weight, and height can significantly affect on the way an RV handles on the road.

Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems. Preparatory activities should occupy your to-do list prior to any RV trip. It’s important to make sure that all of “the little things” are in place and working properly. While it does take time, it’s far better to be prepared than face an unanticipated malfunction that sabotages your road trip.

Before You Leave

Plan your RV route to avoid small streets and one-way roads whenever possible, since maneuvering an RV is easiest on major highways and interstates.

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley's forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes.

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley’s forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that the height of your RV will mean that certain tunnels, bridges, overpasses, and parking garages will be inaccessible. Look for a road atlas designed for truck drivers or RV drivers to find a listing of routes you should avoid.

If this is your first time driving an RV or you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle, spend some time practicing in an empty parking lot or other open area to get a feel for how the vehicle handles.

Do a complete inspection of your RV before you hit the road to make sure all of the vehicle’s safety equipment is in working order.

Check out the condition of your tires before leaving home… and stay safe!

RV tires are put to a rigorous test during the summer travel season.

Regularly inspect the tires. Check for cracks, worn treads, and correct tire pressure.

Under-inflated tires are more prone to damage and failure. They also affect handling and grip, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable vehicle behavior. Under-inflated tires are also much more likely to suffer from a dangerous blowout, especially at high speeds on an Interstate.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Due to the size of most RVs, it is virtually impossible to really know what’s behind you when you’re backing up. If you don’t already have one, consider adding a rear-view or back-up camera that will provide you with an instant view of the traffic behind you.

A back-up camera is especially useful for those with children or pets. The installation and purchase of a back up camera is comparatively small, and many local RV dealers are able to complete this upgrade quickly than you’d expect.

Passengers in an RV can distract your attention from the road, especially if they are talking, watching television, or listening to music. Make sure that everyone, even young children, understands that the driver of the RV needs to pay attention to the road at all times.

Driving Tips

When driving your RV, remember the following safe driving tips:

The added weight of your vehicle means you’ll need a greater distance to stop. Look at the traffic as far ahead as possible in order to avoid unnecessary stopping and starting within the flow of traffic. Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Look ahead and anticipate traffic conditions. Slow down well before you need to. Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the accelerator, coasting to a stop and thus avoid wasting fuel and wear on the brakes.

When you need to park your RV, have someone directing you into the spot if possible.

When you need to park your RV, have someone directing you into the spot if possible. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into it.

In hilly areas, remember that an RV will pick up speed faster than a car or truck on the down slope. Watch your acceleration to avoid creating a safety hazard.

Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. On a windy day, it’s common for an RV to rock and sway when traveling down the road.

An RV requires a larger turning radius, so remember that you need to pull out further into the intersection before starting your turn.

When you need to park your RV, have someone directing you into the spot if possible. If you are traveling without another adult, look for a spot where you can pull through so you avoid the need to have to back up the vehicle.

Worth Pondering…
If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.
—Robert Cavett

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