Minimizing Risk Using Your Motorhome or Camper
Updated November 28, 2023 | Published June 1, 2023
As the summer months’ approach, it’s time to enjoy your motorhome or camper. However, there is a certain risk involved in operating these. About 70,000 to 80,000 accidents involving these types of vehicles occur each year throughout the United States. Let’s look at some tips to mitigate risk while operating motorhomes and campers.
What is a Motorhome?
A motorhome is a motor vehicle with trailer like features for living in, with kitchen facilities, beds, and storage space. The driving capabilities of this motorhome come from the cab; which means you don’t have to use a vehicle to tow it.
What is a camper?
A camper is a motor vehicle home that rests inside the bed of a pickup truck. Truck campers are small and usually have a bed and a kitchen area. A few have a bathroom and a shower. The advantage of a camper is that it can easily be offloaded from the truck to stand alone when at an RV park.
Tips for Mitigating Risk While Operating a Motorhome or Camper
- Make sure you’re legal. Just about anyone with a non-commercial class C license can operate a motorhome or tow a camper. However, there are some exceptions, depending on the dimensions of the motorhome, as well as what state it’s registered in. We recommend checking with the Massachusetts RMV before operating your motorhome or camper just to be safe. Here’s some useful information to determine what type of license you need for your motorhome or camper in Massachusetts.
- Be aware of your RV’s size. Since RV’s are much larger than normal vehicles, they require consideration of things such as height clearance and turning radius. Knowing the dimensions of your RV before you drive can help you better plan your route to avoid low bridges or underpasses.
- Get used to wide turns. Regardless of your RV’s size, you’ll need to take wider turns. A sharp right turn could find your rear tires on the curb or in someone’s lawn. A good practice to take would be to pull farther out into the intersection than you normally would before starting your turn. Watch your rear-view mirrors, and be aware of impatient drivers that may try to zip around you.
- Drive slow. You shouldn’t feel a need for speed. Driving an RV too fast increases the risk of an accident. With the increase in the weight of the vehicle compared to a normal car, braking will take more time. Therefore, you’ll need more distance in between you and the car in front of you, and you’ll need to be more aware of road obstructions to give yourself more time to react.
- Practice in a safe place. Take some time to practice turning before you head out on a road trip. Find a big empty parking lot or a dirt field and put out some cones to practice maneuvering and parking. Set up scenarios where you’re pulling into a campsite forward or in reverse. There are also driving courses that you can take advantage of to learn more about your motorhome or camper.
- Plan Routes and Gas Stops in Advance. Last-minute maneuvers are reckless when operating a motorhome or camper. Know your directions well in advance of them actually happening so that you don’t have to swerve or make any sudden driving maneuvers. Consider purchasing an RV GPS unit. These units can help you better plan your route. When planning your route, consider maneuverability, low bridges, and even gas stations before you head out on the trip.
- Keep up with RV maintenance. A well maintained vehicle is a safe vehicle. Be sure to keep up with preventative and annual maintenance to keep your vehicle in tip top shape. Here is an example of a handbook to track your maintenance schedule for your vehicle. Before your trip, check these things:
- Belts and hoses (check for cracking)
- Headlights, turn signal, tail lights
- Hitch or towing equipment
- Tires for the correct air pressure and sufficient tread depth
- Load your vehicle properly. Every unit has a max cargo carrying capacity (in your manuals it might be referenced as CCC) that shouldn’t be exceeded. You also need to load your vehicle to distribute the weight properly.
- Pay attention to the weather. This is a common cause of accidents. Rain, fog, ice, and high winds make traveling in your vehicle dangerous. Plan your trip to avoid bad weather, and if unexpected weather comes, don’t drive. Keep an eye out for debris when you hit the road again. It’s harder to swerve and maneuver a motorhome or camper.
- Use a spotter when backing up. A spotter can see things you can’t when you’re behind the wheel. Even if you have a backup camera, it’s a good idea to have a spotter out there, if you’re not traveling alone.
- Use a weight distribution hitch. This is a great tool for travel trailers. It transfers the weight of your trailer more evenly across both axles of your towing vehicle. Doing so reduces sway, levels your trailer, and allows you to tow more efficiently.
- Use your engine to slow down on deep grades. Safely navigating grades while towing requires utilizing your engine to keep your speed in check. Downshift early and pump your brakes regularly to keep you from constantly riding them, which increases the risk of them burning up.
- Carry the right emergency essentials. You can’t control everything that happens on the road. Stocking up your motorhome or camper with essentials is one of the first things you should do when you hit the road.
WebFirst Insurance, LLC offers recreational vehicle insurance to keep you covered while you have fun on vacation this summer. Consider choosing WebFirst Insurance for your insurance needs.