Defensive driving takes on a whole new intensity once you become an RVer. Every highway action is magnified exponentially as you command a rig, which sometimes causes 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 for RVers stay consistent across the miles and kilometers.
Before the electrical grid lit up America’s cities and roadways with traffic lights, road signs were the only way that drivers knew how to get around and avoid accidents. Auto history buffs say that as early as 1905 visionary automobile clubs around the country were posting helpful signs to direct drivers.
The only problem? These signs were inconsistent from place to place. Consequently, over the next two decades, road signs were improved by the creation of eight shapes and colors that remain the same across the U.S. and in many other countries too.
What road signs mean is important, but uniformity in shape, color, and typeface is important too.
Following are the three most important road signs for RVers to observe:
Downhill Grade Ahead
Downhill grade warning signs give extra warnings that it’s time downshift into a lower gear. First, move into the slow lane and allow other drivers to pass, then ease off the gas pedal. Whatever you do, don’t 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
The 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 an RV or trucker hits a low clearance bridge, the local highway department can impose damage fines. You can avoid this hard lesson by obtaining an accurate measurement of the height of your RV. This will require two people and a long tape measure.
Go up on your RV roof 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 the second person on the ground. There’s your measurement. If traveling in both the US and Canada you’ll want a metric height as well as one in feet and inches.
Dead End/No Outlet
There’s a lot to be said for Class B motorhomes 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, a Dead End or No Outlet sign is enough to cause cardiac arrest.
Avoiding dead end encounters starts with proper trip planning. It also requires a good GPS unit for RVers, and when possible, an old-fashioned paper map to verify navigation choices. Although all tools are critical to avoiding dead ends, wrong turns can still happen. Should you get into a tight spot, you have two choices:
- Back up all the way to the nearest turnaround point
- Maneuver back and forth until you can turn around
Either tactic requires a patient partner who can guide you out of the situation.
Be aware that if you tow a car behind a motorhome, you can must first unhook your car before backing up the motorhome.
The more you travel in your RV, the greater the odds of ending up in a precarious situation like going too fast while traveling downhill, encountering a low bridge or overpass at the last minute, or figuring out how to maneuver out of a dead end street.
The good news is that with patience and a cool head you can get out of these events with your RV. As a bonus, you’ll have great campfire stories to tell!
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.