TIPS FOR DRIVING AN RV
For those interested in RVing for the first time, there are plenty of things to look forward to. From exploring revered tourist locations to seeking out the hidden gems, the ability to retain the sense of comfort that a home provides while soaking up the enthusiasm that comes with being on the road is a truly exceptional experience. One of the only aspects of the RV lifestyle that seems to instill any hesitation in aspiring RVers is the idea of driving an RV or towing a travel trailer. Doing so for the first time can be an intimidating experience, but it’s important to remember that all seasoned pros were once novices too.
If you’re eager to jump into the RV experience but are hesitant about getting behind the wheel, here are a few tips for making your first journey a safe and smooth success:
Start with Short Distances
Making turns and braking while driving a large, heavy motorhome or hauling a trailer behind your vehicle for the first time can feel awkward, so when you’re first starting out on your journey as an RVer, it can be helpful to practice in vacant parking lots and commit to a shorter trip that doesn’t stray too far from your familiar surroundings. This allows you to get practice operating an RV or towing a trailer without jumping into unknown territory where you have no idea what resources are nearby in the event that you need assistance of some sort. Additionally, starting with a small trip to an area you’re familiar with can prevent you from running into any unexpected scenarios, such as sudden sharp turns, steep inclines, or closed roads. As you become more comfortable maneuvering your rig, you can expand your adventures to unknown territories.
Double Check That Your RV Awning Is Securely Attached
It’s important to double or even triple check that your RV awning is firmly secured to your rig before hitting the road. If your RV awning were to fly open as you were driving, the fabric could tear off of the RV, or even worse, the hardware itself could come off, resulting in costly damage as well as posing the risk of bodily harm to you and other drivers on the road. The good news is that there are travel locks and awning straps that you can look into that will help you keep your awning secure and your travels safe.
Pay Attention to Your Energy Levels
While it’s easy to want to keep on trekking until you get to your destination, it’s important to recognize if you’re feeling driver fatigue. Driving while drowsy can be incredibly dangerous, so don’t push yourself past your limit. Signs of driver fatigue include:
- Heavy eyelids
- Dry eyes or blurred vision
- Persistent yawning
- Drifting into road shoulders
- Drifting into another lane
- Delayed reaction times
- Zoning out
When planning your trip, try to ensure that there will be places to rest at appropriate intervals. If you unexpectedly get tired, try to find a safe place to pull over and rest if there is not another passenger who can take over driving duties. Some locations, such as certain WalMarts, Cracker Barrels, and casinos, allow RVers to park overnight in their parking lots, which can be a good alternative if you find yourself suddenly overcome with fatigue. This directory lists locations that allow free overnight parking, but you can also call individual locations to see what their policy is.
Stick to the Right Lane
Sticking to the right lane when possible will allow you to travel at a slow, even pace without holding up traffic. RVers are generally not encouraged to drive at the same speed as other vehicles, and some states have different speed limits for RVs and trailers, especially for larger models. Going slower, especially at first, will also help you safely adjust to driving an RV or towing a trailer. Additionally, sticking to the right lane will allow other vehicles to pass you, and you will also be able to safely pull off to the side of the road if you are experiencing any issues. Another perk of driving slowly is that you will save money on fuel, as faster speeds cause fuel to deplete quickly.
Allow Space Between You and Other Vehicles
Aside from driving slowly, it’s also a good idea to allow for more space between you and other vehicles than you would if you were driving a normal vehicle. Many states suggest leaving two or three seconds between normal vehicles, but RVs require more stopping distance, which is why it’s recommended to leave about 4-6 seconds, depending on how long your RV or trailer is. To estimate the distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, pay attention to when the vehicle ahead passes a landmark, and then count how many seconds it is until you pass that same landmark. This will help you assess whether or not you should adjust your speed.
Plan Your Routes With Your RV’s Size in Mind
The size of your RV can affect which routes you can take. Certain tunnels may be too narrow, bridges might be too low, and narrow, winding roads are sometimes unable to accommodate larger vehicles. While road signs will be posted along the way warning about size limitations, being unaware of these limitations from the start can prevent you from planning your route efficiently. Additionally, many gas stations don’t accommodate larger vehicles, so you’ll often need to use truck stops to fuel up. By knowing the dimensions of your RV and using helpful route-planning apps, you will be able to avoid any dangerous scenarios or frustrating setbacks that can occur without taking these restrictions into account when first planning your trip.
Consider Reserving a Pull-Through Site
Backing into and out of a tight spot at an RV park can be difficult, so while you’re getting used to driving your RV or pulling your travel trailer, it might be a good idea to reserve a pull-through site when first starting out. Pull-through campsites function just as their name implies; you pull into the entrance, set up your campsite, and when you’re ready to leave, you simply drive out in the same direction that you entered, as there is an exit on the other side. It’s an easy solution for those who are first exploring the RV lifestyle, as backing in out and out of campsites can frustrate even experienced enthusiasts.
While this information is not meant to replace official RV driving lessons from professional instructors, hopefully it provides you with some general RV driving safety tips to keep in mind. If you start slow, do your research planning your routes, ensure that your RV awning is securely attached, stick to the right lane, avoid tailgating those around you, and reserve a pull-through site, your first trek should be a successful start that paves way to a lifetime of RV adventures. Happy trails!