RV Safety Tips
- Tighten Up: Conduct a Pre-Drive Safety Check
- Practice S.A.F.E. Cornering
- Follow the Rule of 20 Percent
- Know Your Height
- Break Out of a Rut
- See and Be Seen
- Avoiding Unexpected Blowouts
- Tips for Backing Up and Maneuvering in Tight Places
- Don’t Blow It: Essential Propane Tank Know-How
1. Tighten Up: Conduct a Pre-Drive Safety Check
Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up or steps attached.
Create a step-by-step checklist and conduct a "walk-around" visual inspection before embarking on a trip.
A pre-trip checklist should include things like:
- Double-check the tow bar and safety cables
- Retract jacks, steps, and awnings
- Look under the rig for signs of fluid leaks
- Check oil, transmission and coolant levels
- Check air brakes, parking brake and tow brakes
- Make sure stove, oven and heater burners are not lit
- Check the propane tank for leaks and intake/exhaust lines for blockages
- Inspect tire inflation pressure and tread wear
- Make sure smoke and propane leak detectors are working
- Check your surroundings (weather, overhangs and ground hazards)
- Make sure bay doors are closed and latched
- Disconnect all power, TV, phone, water and sewer lines
2. Practice S.A.F.E. Cornering
RVers must compensate for the extra weight, height and length of their vehicles when cornering.
At the Good Sam Insurance Agency, we recommend practicing S.A.F.E. cornering:
- Slowly approach the turn. It's much easier to speed up in the corner than to have to brake
- Arc the turn, careful to not arc the first swing in the opposite direction, confusing drivers behind as to where you really intend to go
- Finish the turn completely. Drivers make a common mistake when they straighten before the back end of the vehicle has cleared the pivot point
- Experience is key. The best way to become a good RV driver is to practice, practice, practice
3. Follow the Rule of 20 Percent
Fully loaded rigs have slower acceleration and take longer to come to a full stop than personal passenger autos.
To compensate, add 20 percent to everything you do, from increasing your following distance and judging if you have enough clearance,
to safely merging into traffic.
4. Know Your Height
Sounds simple, but it's amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving.
Hitting bridges and overhangs are some of the most common accidents.
To avoid getting hung up – literally – try this simple trick: put a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact clearance.
Another vital fact: a typical RV is 8.5ft. wide; the typical highway lane is only 10ft. wide.
This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.
5. Break Out of a Rut
Driving on secondary roads has the advantage of being beautiful but the disadvantage of being narrow.
If you feel the front wheel slipping off the road into a rut, follow these easy steps:
- Take your foot off the gas, and gently brake. Jamming the brakes can get you deeper into the rut
- Keep your RV steering forward
- Once slowed down, gently turn to the left and get out of the rut, slowly back onto the road.
Over-correction by jerking the wheel left could cause you to jack-knife.
6. See and Be Seen
Always use turn signals.
Turn your signal on about 50 feet before you turn.
It's not uncommon for accidents to occur when an impatient driver tries to pass an RV that has just begun to make a slow turn.
It seems like a vehicle this big would be easily seen, but you would be surprised how many accident reports say, "I never saw them coming."
7. Avoiding Unexpected Blowouts
Approximately 60% to 70% of Good Sam Insurance Agency claims result from tire failure. Tires normally fail for one of three reasons: improper inflation, worn tread or overloaded/overweight vehicle.
Over time, ozone and UV exposure contribute to cracks in tires, especially on the sidewall. To avoid cracking, regularly wash tires with mild soap, water and a soft brush, removing ozone build up. Dirt is also a tire killer, acting as an abrasive that inhibits the tires’ natural wax protection.
Keep tires covered (including the spare) when your RV is not in use to prevent ozone and UV damage. Here are some additional tire tips:
Watch your pressure: Under and over inflation can both lead to blowouts. To help prevent this,
check the inflation pressure of your tires at least once a month and always before starting a trip.
Do this when tires are cold, as heat generated during driving temporarily increases air pressure.
Never remove air from a hot tire, which may result in under inflation when the tire cools.
Block and level your RV each time you plan to keep it in one place for a couple of days or longer.
This will help avoid unnecessary stresses that lead to excessive tire wear
Avoid tire products that contain petroleum-based substances. Products containing alcohol or
petrochemicals may create and accelerate deterioration and cracking, in addition to stripping
the tire of its ozone protection. Some silicone oils found in such products may cause similar
- Replace any tires that are more than five years old, even if there is no apparent tread wear
8. Tips for Backing Up and Maneuvering in Tight Places
Many hazards such as overhangs, low branches or anything sticking out of the ground are not visible from the driver’s seat of an RV. The best way to avoid these obstructions and to ensure overall safety when backing up is to get an assistant to stand outside of the RV to help guide you into a confined or congested area. Here are a few tips for getting your RV into and out of close quarters:
- Pull out of an area with the RV's front facing forward so that it's easier to see traffic conditions
- Always back into tight places
- Develop a set of hand signals with your assistant or purchase inexpensive walkie-talkies so there's no misunderstanding
9. Don’t Blow It: Essential Propane Tank Know-How
From refueling to inspecting the exhaust system, operating and maintaining your propane tank is a big job.
And although propane tanks are deemed safe for RV travel, there are some key tips to help ensure an enjoyable ride:
- Never paint your tank a dark color, which can absorb the sun’s rays and cause the tank to overheat and explode
- Don't travel with the stove, oven or heater burners lit
- Never refuel with any propane appliance or the engine running
- Make sure older propane tanks are checked to ensure that they have an overfill protection device
- Check the intake and exhaust vents for blockages
- Have your propane tank checked regularly by a certified dealer to ensure that lines are in good shape and not leaking
- Install a propane gas detector