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What You Need to Know about Driving RVs

Updated on May 11, 2017

There is much to know about driving recreational vehicles, mainly because they differ so much from automobiles in terms of size, weight and ease of maneuvering.

The smaller the coach, the easier it is to drive, but it still takes time to learn what you need to do to be safe on the road in one because even the smallest are heavier due to their equipment load.

Therefore, you can never assume that because you handle an automobile well, the same will be true of a camper, travel trailer or motor home.

Learning what you need to know about driving RVs is vitally important to safety.
Learning what you need to know about driving RVs is vitally important to safety. | Source

Never Overestimate Your RV Driving Ability

People who find themselves standing on the interstate beside their overturned camping units, lying on stretchers as they are put into ambulances after their accidents, or watching as their motor homes burn to ashes on the side of the road because they took a turn too fast, are those who took their driving skills for granted.

They thought that because they knew how to drive a car, those skills would automatically transfer to their ability to drive an RV.

As a result of this mistake, they became dangerous to themselves and others. The lesson here is that if you own a motor home, travel trailer or camper, you should assume nothing and learn everything you can about driving it safely before you ever leave your driveway.

Learn how to drive your RV so that you can avoid accidents!
Learn how to drive your RV so that you can avoid accidents! | Source

Make Sure Your Skills Match the Coach You Buy

There are many types, sizes, and shapes of RV’s.

  • The smaller ones, such as the van types, may appear to be easier to drive, but they still are heavier and bulkier than cars.
  • However, not everybody has the ability to drive the big rigs because they are too long, high, heavy, and bulky for most people to handle safely.

Assuming that you know more than you really do leads to intimidation, and intimidation leads to accidents.

Although I've been traveling for many years, I set my personal limit at driving a truck that tows a fifth-wheeler. I would never attempt to drive a large Class A motor home.

I leave that job to my husband, who

  • was a cross-country trucker for many years,
  • has driven more than a million miles without an accident and
  • clearly knows how to handle big rigs!

Ignore Lax RV Licensing Laws

People usually are so excited when they finally close the deal on an RV that they forget how important it is to make sure they know how to drive it.

All too often people who have never driven anything larger than a car, truck, or van purchase an RV and drive out of the dealership without realizing that trouble is awaiting them. They falsely assume that if the law does not have special licensing requirements for them to drive big rigs, they are OK to do so.

The truth is that there currently are no laws that require special training or licensing for driving or towing large camping vehicles. Many of these units are as large as the vehicles driven daily by cross country truckers, whom the law does require to have special training and licensing!

Many dealerships encourage immediate owner drive-offs, but they well know that it is irresponsible and dangerous to put a unit on the road before its owner knows how to drive it.

To cover themselves, some provide one-day driver training courses and provide certificates of completion. Most people who have taken such courses will tell you that they are a waste of time because there is no real one-on-one, in-depth, lengthy training.

Make sure you match your abilities to the type of RV you plan to drive.
Make sure you match your abilities to the type of RV you plan to drive. | Source

Have a Pro Teach You How to Drive Your RV

There are two ways for people to learn to drive their units safely.

The most obvious one is for them to attend a professionally run, in-depth and complete RV driver safety class. Your local highway patrol can suggest licensed, credible, government-run defensive driver training classes that are specially designed to teach RV owners how to drive their units.

Another method is to find an experienced RV owner who is willing to actually take you out on the highway and teach you to drive, back up and park your RV.

If you cannot find an RV owner to teach you, find a trained, professional big rig driver who can teach you what you need to learn. Many firefighters have these skills, are also RV owners, and are always looking for ways to make some extra money.

No matter who teaches you, however, the important thing to remember is that the best teacher is experience.

The more you practice, the more your skills will improve and the safer you will be when you travel.

4Ucam Digital Wireless Camera + 7" Monitor for Bus, RV, Trailer, Motor Home, 5th Wheels and Trucks Backup or Rear View
4Ucam Digital Wireless Camera + 7" Monitor for Bus, RV, Trailer, Motor Home, 5th Wheels and Trucks Backup or Rear View

This important safety feature is a must have for motor home owners who tow cars when they travel. Installs easily and gives a clear view of your towed vehicle. Also assists with backing into campsites.


12 Basic Safe Driving Tips

These tips for safely driving your RV are mostly common sense, yet people tend to ignore or forget them once they get behind the wheel. However, if you use them regularly, you'll have a better chance of avoiding accidents.

  1. Practice driving your coach before you start out on a vacation.
  2. Wear your seat belts and make sure all passengers do the same, especially children.
  3. Keep animals in cages or restraints so that they do not become driving hazards. Why You Need to Secure Your Dog When RVing explains more about this issue and shows you what happens in crash tests. It also tells you which dog restraint is the only one on the market that works!
  4. Drive in the center lane if there is one. If not, stay in the right line.
  5. Keep speed between 55 and 60 mph. It's better to take longer than to have an accident because you were speeding.
  6. Use a rear camera monitor made specifically for RV use such as the one shown above. If you are towing a car,check it regularly to make sure the car is still attached to your coach. There are other types of camera monitors on the market, but we use this one when we travel because it gives us a great view of the area behind our coach and is extremely easy to use. It's a great safety feature every RVer should consider installing unless their coach already comes with one.
  7. Do not distract yourself. In other words, don't eat, text or try to read maps when you're on the move.
  8. Be extremely careful when entering or leaving gas stations or truck stops. Turn wide and slow, and always keep an eye out for traffic.
  9. Don't slam on your breaks. If you need to stop, slow down first and pump your breaks a bit at a time. This will make stopping easier and will help you to avoid accidents.
  10. Learn how to use your side mirrors as well as your rear view camera.
  11. Take rest breaks every two hours or less. This will ease mental and physical stress and will make your trip more pleasant. It will also refresh you so that you will be more alert when driving your coach.
  12. If you have a second skilled driver, switch seats and let them handle the driving for awhile.

Remember, with an RV, the trip is part of the vacation. There is no need to rush. Rushing causes all sorts of problem and reduces safety.

Take the Quiz

Here are some questions for you to think about:

  1. Do you think you have good RV driving skills?
  2. Have you ever driven large, bulky vehicles?
  3. Have you ever taken a defensive driving course for RV owners?

If you answered "yes" to all questions 2 and 3, I applaud you.

If you answered "yes" to 1 but "no" to numbers 2 and 3, how do you know that the answer you gave for question 1 is correct?

You don't!

You may be assuming that because you've had no accidents your RV driving skills are acceptable. However, the only real way to know for sure is to

  • take (and pass) a certified RV Training Course and then
  • practice your skills with one of the instructor at your side until you feel you have mastered what you have just learned.

To do anything less is to put you, your loved ones, other drivers and your finances at great risk.

Below is some advice that will help you to become a better RV drive. If you follow it, chances are you'll never have to worry when traveling.

The Result of Poor RV Driving

Learn What You Need to Know

It is extremely important for RV owners to gain the knowledge they need before heading down the road.

Ask yourself if you truly know how to drive your RV. If you do not, it's never too late to learn.

Following the safe RV driving tips mentioned in this article takes a little time and work, but it is well worth the effort.

When you head out for your next trip, you want to know that you'll enjoy it and return home in one piece so that you can take another vacation later!

This should be the best reason in the world for you to want to learn what you need to know before trying to travel in any recreational vehicle.

What type of RV do you feel is the right type for you to drive based on your own abilities?

See results


Submit a Comment

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 9 months ago

    dalyn88: Yes, and maybe even a special endorsement on a driver's license as well as a DOT driving test. This would be an inconvenience, for sure, but it could save many lives. Thanks for reading and commenting. I think what you wrote is important for people to read.

  • profile image

    dalyn88 9 months ago

    I was a transport driver for many years including train units of gasoline products. Accident free as well, therefore I feel very qualified to drive a class A which I own that is 34 ft less than half the length of many units I pulled when driving Tractor Trailers. I do agree any driver that has not driven anything larger than a car or pick up truck be required to take a short intensive course.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 9 months ago

    Blond Logic: I don't believe taking a certified RV driving course lowers insurance rates as it does with automobiles, but check with your insurer to make sure. I'm amazed you were able to drive that rig so far without incident, but thank goodness you did. There are a lot of strange things when it comes to buying, owning and driving RVs, which is one of the reasons I write these articles. It's my small way of trying to keep people aware of the issues. So nice to see you again!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 9 months ago from Brazil

    I must say I was guilty of this. We traveled from California to Florida with two vehicles. Our driver left (unplanned) us in Louisiana and I had to drive a 42 foot RV the rest of the way. Thankfully I had very little traffic and no incidents.

    I think RVs are an excellent way to travel but because of the comfort of driving, it is easy to forget the potential dangers.

    Your advice is excellent with regards to extra training. I would have never thought of asking a big rig driver to help but it makes sense. They are probably more experienced than anyone on the road and know how to handle situations which might arise.

    If you take a certified training class does this reflect in a reduction of insurance rates, do you know?

    It does boggle the mind that with all the red tape, bureaucracy, and litigation which takes place in the US, that the laws aren't in place to require drivers to take classes to handle them. I suppose it is the power of the motor industry at play there.

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