Defensive driving takes on a whole new intensity once you become an RVer.
Every highway action is magnified exponentially as you drive a large rig, which, on occasion, may cause you to question your interpretation of the scene unfolding in front of you.
The good news is no matter where you travel in the U.S. and Canada, road signs and their meanings, stay consistent across the miles.
Following are the top three road signs RVers need to know and observe.
Downhill Grade Ahead
Downhill grade warning signs give extra warnings that it’s time to downshift into a lower gear. Pay special attention to length of the descent and the slope of the downgrade as expressed in percentage.
First, move into the slow lane and allow other drivers to pass, then ease off the gas pedal. Be sure not to ride the brakes or pump them. Overheated brake pads and friction fires are commonly caused by RVers who don’t know proper downshifting procedures:
- Slow down
- Release your brakes
- Shift down into a lower gear
Resistance created by lower gears will slow your RV down. Repeat downshifting as necessary until you’re at least 10 miles-per-hour below posted speed limits.
Low Clearance Warnings
If you don’t know the height of your RV, trouble could be lurking around the bend. Low clearance dangers are common causes of RV and trucking accidents and property damage, especially in older areas east of the Mississippi.
To add insult to injury, when a RV or trucker hits a low clearance bridge, local highway department can impose damage fines. You can avoid this hard lesson by getting an accurate measurement of your RV’s height. You can do it one of two ways:
With your partner or a friend standing beside the RV, go up on your RV roof with a long tape measure and stand at the highest point, typically the air conditioner unit. Hold one end of the tape measure and drop the other end down to your partner on the ground. There’s your measurement.
Make it easy on yourself and drive your rig to a proper RVing weigh station. A professional RV weigh service will accurately weigh and measure your rig.
Dead End/No Outlet
There’s a lot to be said for Class B vans and truck campers. For starters, you can easily maneuver out of tight turnarounds, dead ends, and cul-de-sac streets. For the rest of us, especially drivers of large Class A motorhomes with a toad, a Dead End or No Outlet sign is enough to cause cardiac arrest.
Avoiding dead end encounters start with proper trip planning. It also requires a good GPS unit for RVers and an old fashioned paper map to verify navigation choices.
When possible avoid driving into a parking or picnic area where you cannot clearly see an exit or adequate space to turn around your rig.
Although all tools are critical to avoiding dead ends, wrong turns can still happen to the best of us.
Should you get into a tight spot, you have two choices:
- Back up all the way to the nearest turnaround point
- Stay put and maneuver back and forth until you can turn around
Either tactic requires a patient partner who can guide you out of the situation.
Drivers of large Class A motorhomes with a toad have an additional problem. You must unhook the toad prior to backing up the motorhome. If you attempt to back up without unhooking the toad you take the change of causing severe damage to your hitch.
With increased experience driving your RV you will decrease the odds of ending up in a precarious situation like going too fast while traveling downhill, encountering a low bridge or overhang, or maneuvering out of a dead end street or other tight situation.
I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.