When exploring and adventuring with an RV, there is one thing which must not be compromised - RV SAFETY!
As with driving any vehicle, the way you prepare and drive has a huge impact over both your safety, and the safety of other road users around you.
An RV is a very different beast to a standard car, or even a van or pick up truck. They can be wider, higher, longer, and heavier.
In this post we take you through our top 15 tips for safely piloting an RV.
RV Safety Tip #1: Do a Vehicle Check For Functionality
Once you have the vehicle do a full pre-holiday check to make sure all essential systems work. Here’s a quick checklist we recommend at the minimum:
- All electronics, in particular external lights, windshield wipers and the horn.
- Tire tread
- Water and fluid levels.
RV Safety Tip #2: Know Your Environment And Surroundings
Have a look at maps to understand the type of roads you will be travelling. Check weather forecasts, traffic conditions, roadwork alerts, and the potential for crossing animals.
Knowing what you may experience will make you much better prepared.
RV Safety Tip #3: Find The Blind Spots
Spend some time testing the vehicle for its blind spots (the worst usually being at a 45 degree angle behind you to each side of the vehicle). Some vehicles can completely hide other vehicles approaching from behind, and you won’t know until you change lanes and swipe them.
Hop in the driver’s seat and look for the blind spots. Then check to see how you can move the mirror to best expose those spots. Convex mirrors are particularly effective at exposing them.
RV Safety Tip #4: Safely Pull Out Of Common Places
By common places we mean things like car parks and gas stations.
You should only enter traffic during large gaps because driving a motorhome is accompanied by slow acceleration. There’s no rush, and sometimes people will wait for you (be sure to live by the RVers code and give them a wave!!!)
RV Safety Tip #5: Use A Spotter
A spotter is a person outside the vehicle to help the driver navigate tight or hidden obstacles, both when reversing or going forward.
It’s a very handy tactic to avoid hitting or scraping things you may have without a spotter!
Make sure you keep the spotter in view at all times and agree on hand signals before starting.
RV Safety Tp #6: Keep A Safe Distance From Other Vehicles
The safe travelling distance for a normal vehicle on motorways is widely measured around the world by the 3 second rule.
At 75 mph, this is around 100 metres. Any closer and you risk hitting the car in front should something unexpected happen. If this happens then you were 100% too close! You can measure the 3 second rule by starting a count when the vehicle in front passes an object, then stopping the count when you pass the same object.
In bad conditions like rain or snow you should triple the three second rule.
When you’re driving an RV you should keep to these distances plus some extra to account for the heavier and thus slower braking vehicle.
RV Safety Tip #7: Respect The Vehicles Payload And Capacity
This is the total weight that the vehicle can carry. It is set by the manufacturer and must be respected. Carrying more than the vehicle is permitted can create issues with warranty, insurance, the law, and most importantly the safety of you and all road users around you.
RV Safety Tip #8: Tow Safely
Here’s a few quick tips to ensure, if towing something, that you do it safely!
- Respect your vehicle’s towing capacity. Exceeding it will have similar consequences to exceeding its payload capacity.
- Make sure the weight is properly distributed in the trailer (i.e. not all up the back or the front). In general trailers should have a 60/40 weight profile. This means 60% of the weight is in front of the axle, and 40% behind.
- Take corners a little wider than normal.
- If you haven’t reversed a trailer often, you should practice before leaving home to get a feel for how quickly it swings around.
- Always double check all lights are working before setting off.
RV Safety Tip #9: Adjust Your Driving For Conditions
We recommend the following driving adjustments:
- When black ice is present, slow down and keep a much larger distance between the vehicle in front.
- Slow down in snow and wet weather.
- If planning on hitting areas where heavy snow is possible, make sure you have chains for each wheel.
- Use headlights or fog lights in rain, fog and snow, and dusk and dawn (and night of course!). You can even can use them in good daytime conditions to make oncoming traffic super aware you’re approaching. A good alert for tired eyes!
- Avoid high beam in fog.
- In the case of heavy snow, flooding or very rough road surfaces, you should turn around and back track to a safer place until bad conditions subside or a better route can be found.
RV Safety Tip #10: Only Overtake When Safe
There is no reason to try and squeeze in a short gap between oncoming traffic! Life's not short (unless you try to squeeze in a ridiculous gap of course!). Never overtake if there is a hill or corner coming up, or if the sun is shining in your eyes.
RV Safety Tip #11: Don't Panic If An Animal Runs In Front Of You
In this situation, all you need to do is take your foot off the accelerator and concentrate on keeping a straight line and staying in control of the vehicle.
It sounds ruthless but there is no point putting everyone’s lives at risk to save the animal.
In many cases even if you try to dodge the animal, you will hit it anyway!
RV Safety Tip #12: Take Sharp Corners Safely
Simply take them a little slower and a little wider than you normally would.
Don’t worry about impatient drivers behind you, as they will one day be bitten by a little thing called karma!
RV Safety Tip #13: Manage Your Passengers
Be a strict RV captain! It’s not a game, and your passengers must remember you should never be distracted.
RV Safety Tip #14: Approach Steep Ascents And Descents Properly
When driving up steeper slopes in a heavy vehicle, you need to change down to gear 2 or 3 to ensure you do not strain the gear box and engine. It also keeps the vehicle more responsive should you need a burst of power.
When going down steeper slopes, you should also stay in the lowers gears, which can assist the brakes to keep your speed down. Try not to hold your foot on the brake for long periods, instead using short regular bursts of smooth braking. This reduces the chance of the brakes overheating and failing!
RV Safety Tip #15: Stay Away From Tempting Dirt Roads
It may be tempting to take that little dirt side track, but most RV’s do not have the running gear necessary to safely attack off road conditions (with a few off road exceptions!).
The best way to avoid complications is to stick to the roads the RV is actually built for - the bitumen!!
Have Fun And Safe Travels!
Use these tips to increase the safety of your next trip. This makes our roads safer for you, your family and every other road user you pass by.