Full Steam Ahead: RV Driving Tips
Driving a recreational vehicle isn’t exactly like being at the helm of a freight train, but it’s certainly nothing like driving a sports coupe, either – or even a big old pickup truck, for that matter. There’s nothing quite as “American” as taking an extended RV vacation. If cruising from coast to coast in a recreational vehicle sounds like your idea of a fun time, then you’re going to want to read up on some safety tips before you head out.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are five key tips to piloting an RV safely:
Don’t drive blind
This doesn’t just mean that you should keep your eyes open behind the wheel at all times – that much is a given. What it does mean, however, is that you should make full use of your mirrors, both rearview and side-view, to see as much as possible of the road and traffic conditions around you.
Always be ready for the sudden stop
RVs are much, much heavier than your average car, and as a result, they can take a long time to come to a complete stop after you’ve applied the brake. This is easy enough to master if you had the road all to yourself. Alas, you don’t. Keeping a safe following distance behind others may help prevent you from having to stop that rolling mammoth on a dime.
Give your tires some love
In tire-talk, “love” means air and attention. But, when you’re driving an RV, it’s important to check your tires each and every time you head out on a major leg of your trip. With the weight your RV tires are carrying, your safety depends on them being properly inflated at all times. Get yourself a good quality tire pressure gauge and know exactly how much pressure your tires should have, then check them regularly.
Pay attention to your weight distribution
In a vehicle as big as an RV, there’s lots of room to put stuff. But you can’t just go about haphazardly adding weight without potentially impacting your RV’s center of gravity. Always secure heavy objects down. The last thing you want is for something heavy to shift suddenly while you’re cruising along at 55 mph.
Wear your seat belt. (You’re not off the hook)
Driving what is most often the biggest thing on the road can lull you into a false sense of security. But, the fact is you can get seriously hurt in an RV accident if you’re not securely buckled in. As a rule, enforce strict seat belt use for every passenger when you’re on the road.
In addition to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s advice on things to do and not to do when you’re behind the wheel of an RV, here are a few bonus tips to keep at the forefront of your mind while tooling around the country in that monster rec vehicle of yours.
- Watch your height. In a sedan or an SUV, you probably don’t have to worry about posted height clearances. But when you’re driving an RV, it’s critical. Know your vehicle’s exact height and always be on the lookout for things like low-hanging branches.
- Be conscious of your length. This doesn’t only apply when you’re parking. Vehicle length becomes a factor when overtaking other vehicles on the road or when merging into other lanes.
- Get familiar with your RV’s handling. Really familiar. Overcorrecting in a small vehicle isn’t always a recipe for disaster, but if you do the same while you’re driving an RV, you could inadvertently cause a wreck. Defensive driving is critical, but you may have to adjust your approach to compensate for the enormity of your on-road footprint.
- Practice parking before you go. One of the great pains about driving an RV is finding adequate parking space when you’re ready to pull over for the night. While your best bet is to plan all of your destinations in advance and only go places you know have RV parking, you should always have a Plan B ready. This includes learning how to park in tight areas. The best way to do this is to practice in an empty parking lot sometime before you leave on your RV excursion. Taking the extra time will do you good, and you may thank yourself for having done so.
Now that you’re well schooled on how to drive an RV safely, be sure to review your motorhome insurance policy to make sure you’re full covered for any eventuality. With motorhome insurance, you can get a variety of options, including bodily injury and property liability, collision, contents coverage, personal injury protection and even coverage for your expensive sound system. Most insurance companies will also give you the opportunity to secure roadside assistance, towing and labor costs coverage.