When purchasing your RV, you probably didn’t think about what you’d if you got in an RV accident. You’re excited about the possibilities: canyon sunsets, endless beach views, fall colors among the mountains. You’re ready to hit the road and start making memories.
While we recommend taking this positive view, it’s good to have a plan in case of an RV accident, which can be very serious. If you don’t take the correct precautions, your adventure could be halted.
Let’s take a look at the five most common causes of RV accidents and how to avoid them. This might even help you decide which type of RV to purchase if you’re on the fence about a drivable RV versus a towable RV.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
How Common Are RV Accidents?
Compared to automobile accidents, RV accidents are pretty rare. About 70,000-80,000 accidents involving RVs occur each year. This is significantly lower than crashes involving automobiles. However, RV accidents can sometimes be more dangerous because of the weight and size of RVs.
Cars will generally have safety features like seatbelts and airbags. So if it rolls down an embankment, airbags will deploy and the driver will hopefully remain restrained in the seat. But when a motorhome rolls over, if there are passengers in the rear of the coach, no airbags will protect them and flying debris could be dangerous.
Accidents involving fifth wheels and travel trailers can be exceptionally hazardous. When you get a tow vehicle and large, heavy trailer involved, the damage in an accident multiplies compared with an accident only involving a car.
And because RVs aren’t as structurally sound as automobiles, irreparable damage will likely be the result.
Are RVs Safe in a Crash?
RVs don’t undergo the same rigorous testing or inspections as automobiles. As a result, they’re not as safe in a crash and much less durable in any kind of collision. But the standards vary a bit among the motorhome classes.
According to an article on Consumer Reports, “the driver’s portion of a Class A motorhome isn’t designed to meet the same crash safety standards as the van cab found in other motorhome types.” The article continues to explain that Class B vans tend to be the safest choice because they have front airbags and full seat belts for multiple passengers, not just the two riding in the cab.
If traveling with children, motorhomes aren’t the safest option. Because the rear seats tend to be side-facing, they aren’t recommended for car seats or passengers. If you want safer options, start exploring fifth wheels and travel trailers so everyone can ride correctly and safely in the tow vehicle.
But the seating arrangements aren’t the only dangers when traveling with an RV. When towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer, the results of a rollover or bumper-to-bumper accident could total the rig and endanger other drivers. That’s why knowing the most common causes of accidents and how to potentially avoid them is crucial.
5 Most Common Causes of RV Accidents
Whether you’re driving a motorhome or pulling a toy hauler, fifth wheel, or travel trailer, there are common causes of RV accidents. These include driving tired, strong winds, incorrectly weighted RV, blind spots, and driver error. Some RVs might be safer than others, but all drivers should know the risks before taking their rigs on the road.
1. Driving Tired
This is pretty self-explanatory. Whether you’re towing a toy hauler or driving your Mazda, you shouldn’t drive when tired. It’s safer for you, your passengers, and the other drivers if you pull over or even stay an extra day at your campsite to catch some Zs.
Driving, in general, is taxing, but driving a motorhome or towing an RV requires more mental focus than driving an automobile. If you feel sleepy, find a rest area to take a nap or get out and walk around. If someone else can drive, ask them to switch with you. Get to your destination safely, no matter what time it is.
More importantly, consider adhering to the 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 rule. Read on to learn more about this potentially life-saving rule.
Pro Tip: Stay alert on the road with these 10 Simple Ways to Make RV Driving Days Not Suck.
2. Strong Winds
Because RVs are bigger than automobiles, strong winds affect your driving. Windy conditions can send your camper swaying, especially when towing. You could overcorrect or veer into the wrong lane, leading to a flipped camper and tow vehicle.
The speed limit for trucks and trailers is not a recommendation–it’s a serious guideline that will keep you safe if you follow it.
A lightweight rig may seem like a good thing, but in windy conditions, it can increase your risk of an RV accident. It can get batted around in the winds or make it easier to go off the road.
3. An Overweight RV
The weight of your RV, combined with the windy conditions mentioned above could spell disaster. An overweight RV puts more strain on the tow vehicle or the chassis. You increase the chance of a tire blowout or rig damage.
A motorhome works harder if overloaded, which can cause engine, transmission, or brake system problems. A too-heavy towable RV puts too much weight on the frame and axles. Your smallest concern with an overloaded RV is a tire blowout and your largest is severe, irreparable damage that puts you and others on the road in harm’s way.
Make sure you are well within your gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) on all of your vehicles, as well as the combined weight rating. Even big motorhomes and trucks have limits!
Pro Tip: Does your RV need to go on a diet? Learn more about The Most Important Question New RVers Don’t Ask: RV Weight.
4. Blind Spots
RVs are longer and wider than automobiles. Even with the right mirrors, it can be difficult to see certain spots around your RV. Without a backup camera, it’s impossible to see behind the vehicle.
Other drivers don’t always look out for RVers or tractor-trailers going down the interstate. So someone swerving in and out of traffic may easily get in your blind spot.
5. Driver Error
There are countless examples of driver error. You could miscalculate a turn and sideswipe a pole or not stop soon enough and skid into an intersection. There are also dangerous driving habits that lead to RV accidents like speeding, turning too quickly, and not leaving enough space between you and the driver in front of you.
Then there’s intoxication, drug use, or texting while driving, which are among the most dangerous types of driver errors.
Accidents might also happen just because you’re learning and inexperienced. This might include turning too quickly or overshooting a turn. Driver errors can lead to rollovers or other collisions.
How to Avoid RV Accidents
Accidents occur no matter what you’re driving or towing. But because driving or pulling an RV requires more attention and skill, the results of an accident can be much more serious. That makes it even more important to avoid RV accidents.
We wanted to set you up for success the next time you hit the road. Let’s look at how to prevent accidents in your RV.
Many RV tires aren’t rated for speeds over 65mph, and those who ignore that guideline can be in danger. Take your time and slow down when driving an RV.
If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, leave earlier. Stay in the right lane and slow down, especially if you’re an inexperienced driver.
Have the Right Gear
Fortunately, there are products out there that help reduce driver error and better equip your RV for the rigors of the road. These safety devices can also help you monitor the state of your vehicle as you’re driving. Things like tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), RV backup cameras, and even sway bars.
➡ Reduce your risk of an accident with several of these essential RV Safety Devices.
Practice the 2/2/2 RV Rule
The 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 RV rule prevents RV accidents because following a travel day rule keeps the driver rested and focused. Depending on which rule you follow, you won’t drive for more than 200 or 300 miles and will stay in a destination for at least two or three days.
If you know you have a 16-hour drive between destinations, plan the route following a 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 rule. Don’t try to knock it out in two days. The driver will be exhausted and less attentive, leading to driver error. Breaking up the route into smaller increments helps you stay alert.
Plan Your Route
As mentioned above, plan your route so you aren’t traveling too much in one day. Also, plan to take the safest route possible. This includes watching the weather forecast and satellite views of the road conditions. Also, check for low clearance bridges and routes that might take you through a crowded downtown.
Do your homework and know what the conditions are. Are there tight turns or construction areas you want to avoid? Is there a storm rolling through or high winds in the area? Change your travel plans if needed to have a safe, enjoyable journey.
➡ We recommend using a trip planner and RV GPS like RV Trip Wizard to plan and navigate your journey safely and without route surprises.
Stay Up-to-Date on RV Maintenance
If you tow a fifth wheel, keep the hitch and kingpin box well lubricated–your safety depends on it! Inspect your hitch and sway bars for rust or corrosion as well. If you have a drivable RV, performing regular maintenance like oil changes and inspections contributes to your safe travels.
Stay an extra day or two if you realize you haven’t had time to go through your maintenance checklist that month. Remember that traveling in a hurried state could have disastrous consequences.
Weigh Your RV
Remember how having an underweight or overweight RV could lead to an accident? Weigh your RV frequently when traveling. Stop at a CAT scales location to properly weigh your RV. Check that your tow vehicle and your trailer’s tires and axles can handle the weight.
You don’t have to weigh every time you travel. But if you choose to drive with full water tanks one day or you want to tow a car behind your fifth wheel, consider swinging by a CAT scale. You want the weight evenly distributed as much as possible.
Take an RV Driving Course
To overcome some common inexperienced driving mistakes, take an RV driving class. Taking an RV driving course can give you confidence when it’s time to hit the road, especially if you’re brand new to RVing.
Your teacher will discuss calculating turns and switching lanes on the interstate. You’ll feel more confident and be a safer driver for everyone on the roads.
Stay Safe Out There!
Slowing down and staying rested are good tips for anyone traveling long distances. Driving responsibly is important no matter what you’re in. But when driving a motorhome or towing a camper, more variables affect the drive, including wind speeds, weight, and maintenance.
Keep yourself, your loved ones, and other drivers safe. Follow these suggestions and enjoy your adventures. The point of traveling is to explore new destinations, right? Let’s make sure you get there in one piece.
What are your driving safety tips? Let us know in the comments below!
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