During the pandemic, travelers sought out recreational vehicles in record numbers. RVs and trailers allow travelers to maintain their own spaces on the road and at lodging accommodations and stay socially distant from other travelers.
In 2020, RV rentals increased a staggering 650%, showing the excitement over this mode of travel. In the Rio Rancho area, the nearby Jemez Mountains, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Bandelier National Monument, and the Santa Fe National Forest saw an increase in RVers as many families looked to safely spend time outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This trend is continuing into the summer of 2021. Current projections for 2021 show that RV manufacturers will increase production 23.9% over 2020, which was also a record setting year for the industry. That means that more RVs are on the road—and that more beginner RV drivers may be behind the wheel.
RVs are more challenging to drive than traditional cars and SUVs. These larger vehicles require larger turning radiuses and clearance, which if improperly judged can lead to collisions with cars or stationary objects. RV drivers may also struggle because RVs have large blind spots. The risk of a rollover accident is also higher with an RV because it has a higher center of gravity.
Here are a few ways to make driving an RV safer, particularly for new drivers.
1. Travel during daylight hours.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nighttime, particularly from 3 p.m. to midnight, is a dangerous period to drive due to drowsy driving. Stay awake and avoid other sleepy drivers by sticking to daylight hours for your weekend camping trips.
2. Avoid sudden driving decisions.
If you realize your exit is approaching and you’re in the farthest lane, don’t try to change lanes quickly to make the exit. Just wait for the next off ramp and circle back. You may end up arriving at your destination later than planned, but you and your family will arrive safely.
3. Take wider corners.
RVs and trailers being towed don’t corner on wheels. You’ll need to overswing corners more than the car or truck than you may be accustomed to driving. This will help you avoid hitting curbs, fire hydrants, light poles, and other vehicles.
4. Take it slow and leave a greater distance between cars.
Because they are larger, longer, taller, and heavier, RVs take longer to slow down than regular vehicles. This is particularly true when traveling at higher speeds, especially on Interstate 25 or Interstate 40 across New Mexico. Driving slowly and leaving more braking distance will allow you to stop safely.
5. Know the rules of the road.
RVs and trailers are typically taller than other vehicles. You’ll need to compare the height of your RV or trailer to that of low bridges and overpasses along your route to ensure your vehicle will fit without incident. An RV GPS device or Trucker Atlas can advise you of these clearances. This is especially important when stopping for fuel or food. Instead of taking the drive thru lane at a fast food restaurant, parking the RV and going inside may be more ideal.
6. Plan your route.
RVs and towed trailers aren’t as maneuverable as traditional cars and SUVs, especially when going through the mountainous terrain of Northern New Mexico or through a construction zone on HWY 550 in Rio Rancho. That may mean you don’t want to travel along narrow city streets or through congested areas. Sketch out your route to create a less stressful trip by checking road conditions, construction, and closures ahead of time.
7. Plan for weather.
Just as with other types of vehicles, handling an RV or camper trailer in poor weather, such as rain, fog, ice, and snow, makes for treacherous driving. Maneuvering an RV in high winds or monsoon season can also lead to accidents. Plan ahead to avoid bad weather when possible and if you encounter an unforeseen storm, simply pull over at a rest stop or the next exit to wait it out.
8. Gear up for safety.
Towing an RV, camper trailer, boat, or UTV comes with additional risk, planning and preparation. It’s important to be cognizant of tire pressure, fluid levels, safety chains, tie downs, lights, brakes, mirrors, weight capacities, and mechanical gear are in proper working order. By putting together a pre-trip checklist and taking time to examine your RV, hitches, tow vehicle, tires, tanks, awnings, propane tanks, etc. prior to departure can save you frustration from being broken down on the side of the road.
Sharing the Road with RVs
With more RVs on the highways than previous years, you’ll likely be sharing the road with more of these vehicles than ever.
Follow these tips to avoid accidents.
1. Pass cautiously and stay out of blind spots.
RVs have large blind spots, so it’s unwise to stay in the lane adjacent to one of these vehicles. The driver is unlikely to see you. So, pass quickly. And do it cautiously. Because RVs and trailers have a higher center of gravity, the wind is more likely to catch them and cause them to swerve out of their lanes.
2. Don’t follow too closely.
Because RVs are oversized, they require a longer stopping distance than other cars or SUVs, so giving them a wide berth is sensible. This is especially important if you’re triple towing (daisy chaining) your RV with a boat or UTV trailer. You also want to be cognizant of this as you pull into a campground, gas station, or a drive through.
3. Let them merge into traffic.
RVs may have a harder time merging into traffic because they require a larger traffic opening. If possible, make room for an RV by moving into an adjacent lane.
How Sanchez & Piñon Can Help
If you’ve recently caused an RV accident or been in a collision with one and are seeking legal representation, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s auto accident and injury attorneys, for a free consultation. While other attorneys talk, we listen and provide a personal level of representation. We can discuss how to fight for the compensation you deserve.