RV HIGHWAY DRIVING TIPS
You didn’t (don’t) buy an RV to drive from one end of town to the other. You want to cover some distance and see new and exciting things. That means you’re going to be on the highways and interstates. Travelling at highway-speeds in a rolling house may seem daunting at first, but the following tips can make it a lot easier. Just remember, there are already thousands of RV’s on the highways and interstates, and they’ve been doing it for decades. If THEY can do it, YOU can do it.
First of all, keep those seatbelts on. I know there are still some diehards out there that don’t believe in seatbelts… and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard “you don’t need seatbelts, it’s just like being in a house.” Sure. Except a house typically doesn’t move at 70 miles an hour with the risk of coming to an instant stop when hitting another house (or shed/car) doing 70 in the opposite direction. The nice, smooth surface of the interstate may lull you into feeling stable on your feet – but the laws of physics aren’t lifted just because you’re in a motorhome.
Look ahead. Whether you’re driving a motorhome or towing a travel trailer, it takes you longer to accelerate and it takes you longer to brake. That means you have to think ahead and plan ahead. All the other non-RV drivers don’t realize your rig’s limitations, so you have to constantly anticipate being cut off. It’s quite common to leave some extra distance between you and the vehicle ahead for extra braking time, just to have someone squeeze into that space. In defensive driving courses, they teach you to watch for brake lights far ahead of where you are – this is especially important when driving an RV on the highway.
The right lane is the right lane to be in. For the most part, slower highway traffic (like your RV) is expected to be in the right-hand lane. There are other benefits as well. If you’re in a middle lane, you have twice as many sides (2) and twice as much traffic (2 lane’s worth) to keep an eye on. An awesome way to travel on a highway with limited on and off ramps is to set your RV’s cruise control for just a touch slower than the rest of traffic. You’ll still make good time, but you won’t have to deal with the stress of changing lanes to pass as many vehicles. Let THEM pass you instead. Another benefit I hope you never need; if you’re in the right-hand lane and have a vehicle emergency, you’re already next to the shoulder.
Follow the professionals. If most of the semi-trucks are travelling in a particular interstate lane, there’s probably a reason. It’s probably a good idea to get your RV in the same highway lane as the truckers. Just make sure you match their speed so you don’t interfere with their work while you’re on vacation.
Fear the rear. Well maybe don’t fear it, but give the traffic behind your RV a lot of cautionary respect. Depending on the size of your motorhome or travel trailer, you can have a large blind spot. Take one blind spot and add a tailgater, and you can have all sorts of problems. Rear cameras are very affordable (especially compared to the cost of an accident). Try to get one that you can leave on all the time as an electronic rear-view mirror for your RV. Also, before you hit the highway – or any road – park in a parking lot and have someone stand in various positions to represent traffic and make your mirrors are adjusted properly.
While driving, make slow, deliberate changes. Turn on your RV’s signal light well before your lane change. Make sure your motorhome’s turn signal is on well before hitting an exit ramp, and while you’re on an entrance ramp. Remember, a signal light isn’t to tell other drivers what you just did, it’s to give them some warning ahead of time. Using your RV turn signals well in advance gives an extra warning to smaller vehicles zipping around you or coming up fast from behind. Whenever you can, touch your brake pedal before you start to brake. The smaller vehicle behind your RV might not have a view of what’s ahead and your brake lights could be their first warning. Also, if you’re at a stop for some reason – even highways have red lights (or construction workers with stop signs) -- and see another vehicle approaching from behind, flash your brakel ights in case they’re not really paying attention.
Know where you want to go before you go. This is even more important when your RV is bigger and the traffic is heavier. A long stretch of highway can be easy, an 8-lane freeway flanking a city can give you the sweats. If you’re using a GPS, experiment with the zoom settings until you find one that lets you see what’s coming before it gets there. When you’re planning your RV trip, it can also help to use Google’s satellite view and street view for specific destinations. It can really help to know your RV Campground turnoff is two exit ramps past the river crossing. If you do get hopelessly lost, don’t get dangerously frantic. Pull your RV off at the nearest exit you can comfortably take, find a place to pull over, relax, and reroute.
Watch out for obstacles. Most interstates and highways are in great condition because they’re so busy. However, because they’re so busy, there’s a lot of opportunity for debris to end up on the road and under your RV. This can range from tire pieces from blowouts, to objects falling off vehicles and trailers. A good indicator of something ahead is a number of vehicles leaving a lane or the sudden appearance of lots of brake lights.
Bad weather means bad driving. Heavy rain means slippery roads. Heavy winds mean being pushed from lane to lane. Fog means not seeing obstacles or stopped vehicles until it’s too late. With smart phones and the Internet, there’s no excuse for you and your RV to be caught in bad weather. Check before you head out and, should you get caught unawares, find a safe place to pull your motorhome or travel trailer off the road. Since you’re bringing all the comforts of home with you, stop and enjoy them, rather than increase your stress and risk on the highway.
You’re at your best when you get your rest. Listen to your body. If you get tired on the road, pull over and take a break. When you’re tired, you lose the ability to concentrate, your reaction time slows down, and you get irritable. None of those qualities are ones you want in an RV on the Interstate. And don’t think that caffeine is going to help. When you’re tired, your brain opens up receptors for a chemical that lets you know it’s time to rest. Caffeine blocks those receptors. You’re still tired, but you don’t realize it.
Do your maintenance. It doesn’t matter how safely you drive or haul your RV if your rig is in bad mechanical shape. Waking to a flat tire in the campground is one thing… having a low tire blowout on the freeway is an entirely different experience. Are your tires in good shape and properly inflated? Have you been keeping up with lubricants? Do all the turn signals, running lights, parking lights, and headlights work? Are you on schedule with oil changes and filter replacements? After miles and miles of uneventful driving, it can become easy to forget that your RV is a mechanical unit that suffers from wear and tear.