The rule is “safety first” for a reason.
RVing is a fun and exciting way to see the country, but if you don’t have a firm grasp on safety basics, it can be a risky thing to do. After all, even a small RV is a whole lot bigger and heavier than the normal, everyday car you’re likely used to driving.
Nobody wants what should have been a relaxing good time spent with friends and loved ones into a disaster. So it’s important to brush up on your driving and road safety skills ahead of time, before you put yourself, your passengers, and other highway travelers in danger.
Luckily, the rules to staying safe aren’t that hard to learn, and they’re even easier to follow! Here’s a quick refresher course on safe driving practices and how to drive safely on the road — whether you’re behind the wheel of a huge Class A or a modest sleeper van.
Drive Safely on the Freeway
Let’s start with the basics — how to drive safely when you’re on a high-speed roadway, traveling between destinations.
Since RVs are so much heavier than regular cars, they can take a while to slow down after you begin depressing the brake pedal. And if you slam on the brakes, you’re much more likely to skid, slide, or otherwise cause an accident.
That’s why it’s imperative to make sure you take it slow when you’re in an RV, leaving at least four car length’s distance between you and the next vehicle ahead of you. You’ll also want to travel more slowly than you might in your day-to-day car in order to make up for this new lag in your stopping ability. When you first start driving an RV, you’ll want to check your speed frequently to see exactly how fast you actually are going. You might be surprised to discover you have a lead foot!
As a slower member of traffic, it’s important to stay to the right so other, smaller vehicles can easily pass you. When performing a pass yourself, use the left lanes to overtake the vehicle you’re passing, but then move back into the right lanes once you’ve successfully performed the maneuver. Finally, on a freeway, you should always take care to heed posted traffic signs, including speed limits which may change in some areas or on ramps.
Although freeway driving is faster, many accidents actually occur in slower traffic areas closer to home. This may be because of the stop-and-go nature of driving through towns with red lights, school and work zones, and business entrances. When traveling on city roads, there’s no way to avoid these obstacles — so make sure to take care, be careful, buckle up, and drive safely.
How to Drive Safely at Night
Even for the safest drivers in the daytime, night driving offers a new set of challenges. In fact, in many cases, it’s safest to simply avoid driving after sundown altogether, especially in a large rig.
But every now and again, you’ll be forced to travel by moonlight, whether you’re headed back home from a trip or on your way to a destination that was a little further than you thought.
Always be sure to utilize your headlights while night driving, but only turn on your brights in appropriate settings — country roads with no oncoming traffic. Those bright lights can blind the drivers in the opposing lanes coming toward you!
Also, go ahead and be doubly slow and careful when driving in the dark. With slightly impaired vision, you want even more time to react to an unexpected situation.
How to Drive Safely in the Rain
Modern day tires are built with pretty exceptional traction, but wet roads are hazardous no matter how you slice it — and that’s in a regular-sized vehicle. When you’ve got a couple of tons of weight behind you, slipping and sliding sounds decidedly un-fun.
Avoid traveling during inclement weather if possible. But if it starts to rain while you’re underway, slow down and turn on your wiper blades and headlights. If it’s really coming down, you may want to toggle your emergency flashers, too. That way, you can be sure oncoming traffic behind you can see you.
It’s critical never to slam on your brakes in wet road conditions. Doing so can increase your chances of skidding and losing control of your vehicle. Instead, gently tap the brakes to slow your RV down. You should also exercise extreme caution on curves and ramps.
Finally, if the weather’s really awful, don’t be afraid to pull over and stop — for the whole night, if you have to. There’s no sense rushing to a destination if it increases the risk that you’re going to hurt yourself on the way.
Drive Safely on Icy Roads
Yes, you can purchase snow tires and snow chains… but if you’re really wondering how to drive safely on ice in an RV, the best answer is not to do so. Driving in snowy, icy conditions can be especially dangerous with trailers, which add a whole new level of risk when it comes to skidding.
Avoid traveling in your RV during serious winter temperatures, and if you must, go as slowly and carefully as possible. Be very careful not to slam on your brakes or accelerate too quickly, and get off the road as soon as it’s safe to do so.
If you want even more safe driving tips, be sure to check for local workplace safety awareness programs and other courses designed to help drivers conquer the roads safely and confidently. Many RV dealerships offer complimentary driving courses to new RV owners, but you can also look into courses designed for regular vehicle driving, such as AARP’s 55 Alive Driver Refresher Course.
Whatever source you find and choose to use for your safe driving tips, just make sure you take the advice to heart. We want to keep you safe and happy on the road for many years and grand adventures to come!