It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and spring has finally arrived. That means more motorists on the road and as the spring and summer travel season to picks up.
RV travel can be enjoyable but these large recreational vehicles demand respect. RVs are not particularly difficult to drive but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your travels safer and more relaxing and enjoyable.
Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up, or steps extended. Use a step-by-step checklist and conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away. A pre-departure checklist should include the following:
- Check propane level and fill if needed
- Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels
- Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required
- Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational
- Turn propane off at the tank
RV Safety Check
Before leaving ensure you conduct a thorough inspection on your RV. Do a final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving on your road trip. Check all doors to make sure they are properly latched, disconnect power, water, and sewer lines.
Look for any leaks and ensure your propane and smoke detectors are in working condition. Always test your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it is working properly. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are only noticeable when you’re awake, they include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, headache, throbbing in the temples, weakness and sleepiness, and inability to think coherently.
As a final step prior to departure, check mirror adjustments. Adjust the side-view mirrors to barely see the side of your RV. Adjust the convex mirrors to include blind spots, keeping in mind that distances may be distorted.
Be extra cautious when driving or towing an RV. RVs brakes are different from those in a car or SUV. Since most RVs have air brakes rather than hydraulic brakes, braking will have a different feel. Turning a corner in an RV is very different from a car. You need to compensate for the additional weight, height, and length. Slowly approach your turn and make sure you finish the turn before straightening out.
Experience is a key. The best way to become a good RV driver is by practice.
Know RV Height, Width & Length
Some of the most common RV accidents include hitting bridges, underpasses, and gas station overhangs.
Post your exterior height, width, and total length in the motorhome or tow vehicle where it can easily be seen while driving.
Height: Measure to the highest point such as air conditioner or satellite dish
Width: Measure to the outermost points such as mirrors, awnings, or handles
Length: Measure from the front of the vehicle to the end of the towed vehicle or trailer
Also keep in mind that a typical highway lane is 10 feet. Most RVs are about 8.5 feet in width.
Tips to Backing up an RV
Have the co-pilot get out of the vehicle and scan the site before backing up, checking for site obstructions, overhanging branches, levelness of site, and location of utilities.
Adjust the mirrors to tilt down enabling you to see the lower rear corner of the RV.
The co-pilot should stand at the back of the site slightly to the side of the vehicle. Make sure that you can see the co-pilot in your side-mirror. The co-pilot should use hand signals that you both understand.
Back in slowly and very carefully.
Practice makes perfect. Try backing up in a big parking lot before tackling a campsite.
Remember, safety is no accident.
Take your time.