Stay Safe on the Road With These 13 Driving and RV Travel Tips

Safety on the road is top of mind for all RVers. It doesn’t matter if you are going out on weekend or spending your entire lives in your RV – safety is your underlying focus. What are some key points you should include in your knowledge base before you venture out on the road?

If you do not travel often in your RV or are new to RVing, it can take a while to build up a knowledge base. Here are our best RV travel tips for safe travel. 

#1. Don’t Overload Your RV

Even a small RV or van should know how much their van can carry and not overdo it. Overweight vehicles can expand your stopping distance. They will also not function well with potholes and other construction issues. It is also dangerous for your tires. You can easily be susceptible to blow outs when the tires are only rated for your RV based on the weight it can carry. Putting more in your RV than it can carry can also mean items cannot be stowed or put away because there is not enough room. Then you have items that become projectiles if you need to make sudden stops or go across uneven surfaces while you drive.

#2. Use Google Maps Satellite

This is a great free system to use when you are unfamiliar with an area you will be driving through. If you go to Google Maps. click on the ‘Layers’ button in the bottom left corner. You can zoom in and see if an RV park has concrete pads or potholes. You can also make sure there is enough turning radius into a park or area if you drive a big rig. Hold your mouse over the ‘Layer’ button and you can also select other buttons. Try using the terrain button and you can see elevations or hills you may have to cross over. You can also see traffic patterns and know in advance you might experience slowdowns. 

Check the date on all photos to make sure they are recent or at least you know to call parks ahead of time if you are concerned about any issues, you see visually.

#3. Manage Your Speed

Speed may seem like a small aspect of your driving, but it is the most critical. Driving too fast on a hot day can cause your tires to expand and it could become a driving hazard. Speeding on a windy day can increase the chances or trailer sway or increase the problems related to hitting potholes. Not keeping enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you can result in an accident. Your rig, whether it is a smaller van or a king-size fifth wheel, you need to know that your stopping distance is vastly different than a car. 

Be sure to use the old two second counting rule to stay far enough away from other vehicles on the road. Find a fixed object on the side of the road ahead of you and when the vehicle in front of you passes it, at minimum you should be able to say, ‘one thousand one, one thousand two’ before you reach the object. This shows your speed is relative to the driver in front of you and you should have enough time to safely stop.

RV Maps

Google Maps satellite feature is great for RV travel!

#4. Use an RV-Safe GPS

You should know the height, width, length, and weight of your RV. And just because you have a map available like mentioned above, you still don’t have the math available. 

When you cross a bridge, is the weight of your RV too much to cross it? When you drive under overpasses, are they high enough for you to successfully go through? Are you too wide to go through a tunnel? You can enter your RV’s dimensions into the RV LIFE app, enter your route information, and it will tell you when there may be driving restrictions. 

Also, when you travel into areas where there may be issues for your rig, the app will notify you. It is better to know in advance that your 13-foot-tall RV won’t fit under an upcoming 12-foot bridge. That way you won’t have to back up miles and miles or worse yet, you turn your rig into a 12-foot-tall roofless RV.

#5. Pay Attention to the Weather

Use for free or upgrade your subscription to The Weather Channel. Driving an RV safely across the country depends on the weather too. 

Whether you are driving a van size RV or a 44-footer, you are more susceptible to the weather because of your larger size than a regular auto. And you are carrying your home/vacation home with you! 

It isn’t just about knowing if it is going to rain or snow. You should know if it is going to be a hot day as that can affect your tires. What about the wind speed? That is important to know – especially driving with a travel trailer or an extra large fifth wheel. Think about all the ways weather can affect your drive and be prepared. If it is an especially windy day – you may need to plan an extra day to stop and wait until it clears.

RV road conditions

Always check for road conditions before RV travel, you never know what may be in store!

#6. Check Road Conditions Beforehand

Not something you have to think about in a stationary home, right? But when you are moving down the road, the conditions will affect your trip plans. Use Google to search for specific state road conditions or road advisory systems. You can also look for interstate road conditions and know which roads may be closed or in repair and suggest new routes.

#7. Know your RV

In your home you can flip on switches, call for service or fix something quickly yourself with supplies from Home Depot. But when you are on the road, you don’t always have such luxuries. You need to know features and usages of your RV to be prepared for during your RV travel. This can include several options:

  • Do research and know what items are problem areas for your make and model of RV.
  • Keep back-up parts for those problem areas as well as parts that are hard to get access to or take a long time to order.
  • Be familiar with your warranties and insurance. Know who to contact or at least know where your paperwork is in case you need to contact someone for service or repairs.
  • Know the tank sizes, weight, height – all the measurements of your RV. This will tell you when you need to empty, fill up, not go over or under certain bridges because you are too tall or too heavy.

#8. Replace Older Tires

You don’t have tires on your brick and mortar, but you do on your auto. But you can’t just jack up your RV and change a tire. It is more challenging to get your home off into a safe area. 

Also, you don’t usually get a flat in an RV. You usually get a blow-out like 18-wheelers on the road. When you get a blow-out, it can cause other damages to an RV. You are usually looking at more repairs when you have a blow-up than a traditional flat tire on an auto. 

You should always monitor and check your RV tires and know how they respond to different types of weather. It isn’t just about replacing older tires as much as knowing how your tires should be performing to be safe. 

Here are a few things you should keep up with:

  • What should your tires be inflated to and when should you check?
  • How often should you replace them?
  • Do you have a tire pressure monitoring system to alert you to issues?
  • Are they rated to handle the weight of your rig?

#9. Secure Your Belongings

Have you entered your rig after traveling down the highway and opened a cabinet door? If so, you might have been attacked by flying cans or bottles that were not secured. There are all kinds of tips and trips for keeping things in place during your RV travel. Try using command strips, extendable rods for bars, baskets, trays, and straps to keep things in their place. If you have slides on your RV, you need to make sure there is nothing between them and where they need to slide in and out. If you don’t check, you will have crushed items on your hands.

Also not securing items can cause cabinet doors or refrigerator doors to pop open with goods going everywhere. Flying or falling items will rip holes and gouges in your RV. It is very important to go through your entire RV and very carefully note if something will be having a ‘traveling’ issue. When you enter your RV after traveling, it is also prudent to carefully and slowly open doors and cabinets.

#10. Use a Checklist

The biggest safety help with your RV is to have a checklist. It is hard to remember everything you need to take care of when packing up, traveling down the road, or setting up at your new campground. You don’t even have to create a checklist from scratch. There are lots of YouTube videos and checklists available online. If you are a Facebook member for a group with your RV model, even better. The checklist can be more specific to your RV needs.

#11. Necessary Maintenance

Really, in the end, all maintenance is necessary. Sometimes lack of maintenance just means irritation or being uncomfortable. Other maintenance requires constant checking because it can mean danger or destruction. Here is a list of items you should have a daily or weekly checklist to maintain so you don’t end up stuck beside the road or worse.

  • Wheels – Wheels on the bus go round and round. And because we want them to keep doing that, we should check them every time we get in and out of the RV (or truck). They carry our home or weekend getaway! Make sure they are inflated correctly before every major drive. Each time you stop, do a walk around and make sure they look aligned, inflated with no extra unwanted nails. (Getting a TMPS is a good idea – mentioned below).
  • Fuses and batteries – Make sure your batteries are working in your detectors. Checking fuses will prevent damage to wiring and protecting wiring can prevent fires. According to the NPS (National Park Service), 2,000 RV fires occur annually and many of those fires are from 12-volt shorts.
  • Leaks and seal – Check leaks on your propane tanks. We know what can happen if these are not contained. Check seals on your water tanks. You don’t want drinking water to become contaminated.

#12. Personal Safety Measures

What makes each of us feel safe can vary widely from person to person. You might start by listing out what your top concerns are about RVing and put measures in place to stop your concerns. Here are a few RV travel safety ideas based on RVing facts.

  • Security system – All or some of your RV might be tempting. In September 2022, NIADA even introduced legislation to help prevent catalytic converters from being stolen. If you are with your RV all the time, this might not be a concern point for you.
  • First aid kit – I’m pretty sure a week does not go by that my full-time spouse and I are not using a band aid, peroxide or at the very least a rinse of some kind. The more active you are, the more aid you should keep available. Be sure to get rid of outdated medical supplies as poisoning is the number one safety killer.
  • Rails – You don’t have to be an older person in an RV to consider rails. According to the injury facts by the NSC (National Safety Council), falls are the number one preventable death in homes. Being in an RV can be a little more complicated as we know. So, analyze the areas of your RV where falls are likely to occur and modify stairs or add handrails.

#13. Safety Equipment

  • Fire extinguisher – According to the NSC again – the third issue in homes are fires, flames, and smoke. Because our RVs suffer earthquakes with every move, little things can jar loose which can contribute to fires. Make sure you can put them out.
  • Detectors – Also on the top five list for preventable injuries is mechanical suffocation. We sometimes need to operate generators or heaters in our RVs. It is very important we have detectors in place to monitor the gases and fumes from these items.
  • Tire Pressure monitoring system – One thing our RVs have most homes don’t are our tires. Apply a monitoring set up to your tires so you know when they are getting low. Before we got our TPMS, we actually drove about 20 miles in our fifth wheel before we even knew a tire had blown out. We heard nothing but another RVer told us we had a completely missing tire!

Sometimes we get so busy in life that working on being safe goes to the bottom of the list. But all the other areas of our life are saturated with unrest, concern and even fear when we don’t address the central issues of staying safe. So, take a little time to put some of these in practice or at least move them up on your list of things to do.

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About Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales has been living in an RV and traveling with her family for 7 years now. She road schools her two children, using various travel experiences as lessons in history, science, geography, and more. During their time on the road, the Gonzales family has had the pleasure of touring the 48 contiguous United States as well as parts of Canada. They have learned a lot along the way and Chelsea is happy to share some of that knowledge through her writing.