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RV Seat Belt Safety: What You Need to Know

I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of my coach's equipment.

All RVers should be aware of this important information when it comes to seat belt safety issues.

All RVers should be aware of this important information when it comes to seat belt safety issues.

Do You Have to Wear a Seat Belt in an RV?

For many years people drove their RVs all over the country without wearing seat belts. In those days this was not a safety issue, but in recent years it has become a big one, especially for recreational vehicle owners.

The first motorized RV appeared in 1910, and only a handful of people owned and traveled in them. Today there are approximately nine million people doing the same thing!

Furthermore, more people vacation than ever before, which means highways are more crowded and are more dangerous to navigate.

Given this situation, there is a much bigger chance for accidents. When there is one, people who are not wearing seat belts can be severely injured or killed more often than those who are buckled in.

An Eye-Opening Story

While the story I’m about to share happened in a van rather than an RV, the underlying issues apply to all other vehicles. This incident happened to good friends of mine.

  • An elderly mother, father and aunt were in the passenger seats of a good-sized van which the middle aged daughter was driving.
  • She and the aunt were buckled into their seats in the front, and the father was secured behind the passenger sea. The mother, however, had not put her seat belt on and was seated directly behind her daughter.
  • They were on a country road driving at a normal speed, when a car shot out of a side road and ran right into them full force.
  • The aunt and the father suffered only minor injuries, but the mother (a good-sized woman) was propelled across the driver’s seat and through the windshield.
  • The daughter was crushed against the steering wheel and passed away at the hospital later that night.
  • The mother was badly injured. Although she survived, she was never right again.
  • The father, who had a bad heart, grieved so terribly over the loss of his daughter that he passed away about six months after the accident.

I am sharing this horrible story to make a point.

It is one thing to read statistics, but quite another to bring an accident down to a personal level so that people can see just how damaging it can be to not do something as simple as putting on a seat belt.

Ignore the Controversy

If you discuss seat belt issues with RV owners, there is a wide gap between the ways in which they view them.

  • Some feel that RVing is supposed to be fun and that people shouldn’t have to feel limited when traveling in their coaches.
  • Others think that the driver and passenger should be secured in their seats because in many coaches these are the only seat belts that are provided by manufacturers.
  • A limited group takes the issue seriously and makes it a point to secure all travelers at all times when their coaches are in motion.

If you want to travel safely, the best thing you can do is to ignore the controversy and make it a point to behave in the same way as the last group mentioned above.

Seat belt safely is no different in recreational vehicles than it is in automobiles.

The bottom line is that to protect yourself, you and your fellow passengers must be secured at all times while the coach is in motion.

Excuses People Make for Not Wearing a Seat Belt

I Don't Know If Seat Belts Are Mandatory Here

One of the biggest problems with getting RVers to wear seat belts is that they know the laws vary from state to state and feel it would be impossible to abide by all of them.

Check the states you'll be traveling in for a basic idea of legal guidelines for seat belt use. Granted, it’s confusing. However, the way to avoid the confusion is to insist that travelers belt themselves in at all times!

RVing Is Supposed to Be Fun!

Another excuse is that RVing is supposed to be fun and that limiting movements takes the enjoyment of traveling away.

There’s no question that this is true, but common sense should tell individuals that when you weigh safety against fun, safety should always come out the winner. If not, you might wind up dealing with a situation like the one described at the beginning of this article.

There Aren't Enough Seat Belts

Lack of enough seat belts is another issue that comes up, and it’s the truth. Most manufacturers are only required to provide seat belts for the driver and main passenger. However, there is nothing to stop RV owners from installing more of them if they choose to do so.

They can either do this themselves or have an RV specialist do it, but either way, they should be careful to choose a brand that has good reviews and is guaranteed to be secure.

The bottom line is that there is no excuse for not using them!

A Few Things to Consider

Here are a few things you need to know about seat belt safety:

  • Fines for not wearing seat belts are minimal in most states, but in a few they can go as high as $200.
  • Seats in the rear cabin of an RV are not required to meet Federal safety standards.
  • It is not safe to wear a seat belt when sitting in a reclining position. In a head-on collision, the belt could decapitate its user.
  • The safest type of RV for kids to travel in is one that is towed or supported by a car or truck. This forces children to sit in the vehicle, which means they are required by law to be automatically buckled in during movement.
  • It is unsafe to RV with children using any other type of coach than the one mentioned above. It can also be illegal to do so if the belts are not properly installed and anchored
  • Young children should be belted into their car seats, and these should always be strapped down and facing backwards. Unless you place a child in the passenger seat, this is impossible to do.
  • Seat belts should only be placed on forward facing furniture. It is not safe to wear them on side facing sofas and similar seating.
  • Unless you really know what you are doing, have a pro install belts for you.
  • Buy only lap/shoulder seat belts that have been proven in crash tests to work well.

Secure Your Things as Well as Yourselves

In an RV, with its large interior space, not only passengers but other items lying loose in a vehicle can become deadly missiles.

This is especially important to remember when it comes to recreational vehicles because they carry so many items.

If they are not secured before the vehicle starts to move and problems occur, they can and do kill people.

So, while it is important for all passengers to wear seat belts while a vehicle is in motion, it is just as important to lock away any items that are lying loose in a coach.

How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort shows you how to do this.

Seat Belt Safety Is a Serious Issue

Far too many RV travelers take seat belt use for granted. They assume the large size of their units will protect them in accidents, but this is not true.

Check out the crash video I show here to see what really can happen.

You can be the safest driver in the world, but you can’t account for what the other guy might do. There are no guarantees.

For this reason, you should make it a point to learn all you can about RV seat belt safety so that you can see the serious side of this issue.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: We recently purchased a 1990 Hawkins Motor Coach and are having it worked on by a person with a lot of experience in RV renovation. The unit has the original captains chairs up front, which have only lap belts per the standards of the time. These chairs will need to be replaced. I see that some companies sell chairs with integrated seat belt systems (ISS). Which do you think is safer, getting regular chairs and using the existing lap belts or installing the chairs with ISS?

Answer: Get chairs with the integrated belts. The ones you have are actually 28 years old, so should be changed out.

© 2017 Sondra Rochelle