In previous blogs, we discussed preparation, weight ratings, proper tire inflation, and maintenance. In Part 3, we started to discuss issues on the road. We learned that 65 mph was the optimum speed not only for fuel economy but also for adjusting to merging traffic and other situations. In this final segment, we will discuss some very valuable safety tips.
The American Safety Council recommends a 2-second following distance, however, that is a recommendation for a typical passenger car with a stopping distance of 200 feet at 65 mph and does not include reaction time. An RV, even with supplemental brakes will require a greater stopping distance so it’s a good rule of thumb to give yourself a 3-4 second following distance to create a “safe space”. The problem you will find is that aggressive drivers will “shoot in” to your safe space and create bottlenecks. If you maintain a 65 mph speed and encounter an aggressive driver, simply back off 2 mph and they will be gone in less than one minute.
Identify Safe Driving Pockets
One thing I keep telling new RV drivers is; “Remember you are recreating”! Usually, you do not have to be at a certain destination at an exact time, so you have the luxury to relax, drive slower, and even stop if traffic or weather is an issue. While driving down the highway, you should be able to identify the congested pockets of vehicles that are trying to pass the semi trucks and slow moving cars either on the right or left. Stay away from this mess, drop your speed down and find a Safe Pocket away from the confusion. As we discussed in the last blog, knowing your limitations in acceleration and stopping is important. If you are trying to pass a tractor trailer or car, coming up to a hill might mean you start to lose speed and can not pass but more important, get stuck in the left lane!
As stated before, it’s easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble once you are in it! Constantly scan the road, look for signs of trouble or congestion, brake lights coming ¼ mile ahead and especially construction signs. By observing the warning signs early, you can adjust your speed and even change lanes for construction well before it becomes an issue and potential hazard.
Have your driving partner watch for information signs, exits, eating places, billboards, etc. You need to keep your eyes on the road and what’s happening in front of you!
Traveling in extreme weather conditions are much more dangerous for RVers as you are either pulling a trailer that adds weight in not only your traction but stopping ability, or driving a motorhome that is much more affected by the wind and has the same stopping issues. It’s like driving down the road with a billboard sometimes.
The first issue is visibility and how well your windshield wipers work. For most motorhome owners, it’s marginal at best. Make sure you inspect your wipers for the best rubber meeting the glass and clean/maintain them throughout the year. And again, know your limitations! Give yourself more time to brake, limit your speed for hydroplaning, and make sure you have checked your tire tread and pressure for the best rubber meeting the road.
Be prepared for underpasses, groves of trees, and trucks passing. Have a good grip on the wheel and stay focused. There are several aftermarket products such as sway bars for trailers and steering enhancement products for motorhomes that are well worth the money if you spend much time on the road. Sometimes it’s just easier to pull over and relax until the weather conditions become more stable.
Go down the mountain in the same gear you went up the mountain! As you are going up a steep grade, the tow vehicle or motorhome transmission will automatically shift to keep your RPMs higher and handle the grade. Once you get over the hill, coming down the unit will gain speed and shift up which puts more stress on the braking system as you get to the bottom. Manually downshift to use the transmission for resistance and stopping ability rather than waiting until the bottom to realize your brakes might not be sufficient for your speed!
About the author:
Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair, and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
From time-to-time, we have guest bloggers post on our site. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the authors.
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