The freedom to go where you want, when you want is one of the many advantages of owning a RV. However, before you “captain” your first RV trip by getting behind the wheel, you should learn a few tips to help master driving your new home on wheels. While piloting a RV down the highways and byways of America is a far cry from threading a cruise ship through a canal, it is definitely more involved than driving the family sedan to the corner grocery store.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are five key tips to piloting an RV safely:
Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be a great way to travel across the country. However, to be safe you need to know about safe operation and maintenance. RVs are very different from cars and because of their size; they handle more like a large truck. This also means RVs have some real limitations. In order to keep your friends and family safe on your next trip, make sure to read these tips below and enjoy the view.
WATCH YOUR BLIND SPOTS – THE “NO-ZONES”
RVs are large and have many blind spots. Learning to use your mirrors and signals properly can help prevent serious accidents. Your mirrors are very important, but they do not allow you to see everything on the road, so always be aware. In addition, trucks have even larger blind spots, and may not see you so be ready to respond defensively to dangerous situations.
PREPARE TO STOP
RVs are similar to trucks in that they are heavier than cars and require a longer stopping distance. Pay attention to traffic and to other vehicle’s brake lights. Always keep enough room between your RV and the vehicle in front of you. This will help prevent accidents in case of an emergency braking situation. Driving at a safe speed will also ensure your safety in the event of any sudden stops.
CHECK YOUR TIRES
Maintaining proper tire pressure, inspecting tires regularly, avoiding excess loading and driving at a safe speed can help prevent tire problems. Before each trip, make sure you check to see if your tires are properly inflated. Maintaining the correct air pressure and tread depth will ensure their longevity and your safety.
WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
Weight distribution is very important in maintaining the proper center of gravity in a RV. Be sure to secure all heavy items. They can shift during travel and may affect handling, ride quality and braking. Distributing the weight closer to the ground and equal on both sides keeps the center of gravity low and will provide better handling of your RV.
WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT
Always wear your seat belt. Make sure all passengers in your RV wear seat belts whenever the vehicle is in motion. In case of an accident or sudden stop, passengers who are not buckled in may be thrown around and seriously injured.
In addition to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s suggested list of do’s and dont’s when piloting your land yacht, here are a few extra tips that will assure smooth sailing while navigating America’s highways and byways.
KNOW YOUR HEIGHT
In a sedan or SUV you typically don’t have to worry about posted low clearances on bridges, tunnels and buildings. However, when driving your RV, it’s essential to know your rig’s exact height and always be on the lookout for low clearance signs along with other things like low-hanging branches.
BE COGNIZANT OR YOUR EXTENDED LENGTH
This applies to finding parking and campsites, but most importantly when changing lanes or merging on freeways to avoid side swiping another vehicle.
GET TO KNOW YOUR RV’S HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS Overcorrecting in a regular motor vehicle typically won’t end badly, but if you do the same while driving your RV you could end up in the ditch, colliding with other vehicles or worse. Learn the handling characteristics of your RV and learn to compensate accordingly.
PRACTICE PARKING BEFORE YOUR FIRST VOYAGE One of the few disadvantages about driving a RV is finding adequate parking space when stopping for groceries, roadside attractions, meals, etc. The best way to learn how to park your RV is to practice in an empty parking lot prior to leaving on your first camping trip. Taking the extra time to practice will provide you the confidence to safely and comfortably negotiate a tight parking space when needed.
KNOW HOW TO BACK UP YOUR RV As in the above example, take your RV to an empty parking lot and practice backing into a defined space. Use the parking stall lines to define the space you will back into and/or take some small bright colored cones to represent an obstacle. Backing over a line or cone is much less embarrassing and costly than backing into a tree at the campground with an audience!
Regardless if your choice of RV is a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel or truck camper, utilizing these tips to sail the highways and byways of this country will feel like a day at the beach. Bon voyage!