“Snowbird” is a term often used to refer to people who love the Arizona winters and come to live in the Phoenix metropolitan area during the cooler months. To get to their winter retreat, many seniors use a recreational vehicle (RV), like a camper-trailer or Class A motorhome, rather than have to maintain homes in two separate states. That means the valley roads will be more crowded than ever, and full-time residents need to be prepared. As we get closer to winter, pay attention to these RV accident prevention tips from our Phoenix accident attorneys to make the roads safer for snowbirds and full-time residents alike.
Unfortunately, states do not require a special permit or training to drive an RV. The only regulation is that the driver must be over the age of 21. These-large-and-in-charge vehicles can become unwieldy when driven by an inexperienced driver. Some issues that an RV driver can run into are braking problems, blind spots and lack of maneuverability. When these problems arise on the road, accidents are far more likely.
Here are some common causes of recreational vehicle accidents:
- Drivers who are inexperienced with handling large vehicles
- Runaway trailers that are not secured properly
- Poorly calculated braking distances
- Senior drivers with driving impediments
- Vehicle rollover due to a higher center of gravity
- Overloading the RV past its weight limit
- Miscalculated turn radius
- Failing to see another vehicle because of a blind spot
- Speeding and losing control of the RV
- High winds that can throw the RV off balance
What if I am involved in an RV accident?
Make sure that you document the accident. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and make sure to call your insurance company. If you are injured, visit the hospital or medical office to get properly examined. Even if you do not feel the immediate effects of the accident, getting medically examined is always a good idea. You should then contact a personal injury lawyer who represents vehicle accident victims to discuss your injuries and who is at fault. The fault in an RV accident could be one of the drivers, the RV manufacturer or a homeowner. A qualified attorney can determine which course of action to take and will help you receive compensation. This can cover the cost of medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more.
1. Always be aware of large-scale vehicles, including RVs. Remember, their visibility is limited due to the scale of their vehicle, so give them adequate room to merge lanes and slow down.
2. In heavy traffic conditions, do not follow a large-scale commercial truck or recreational vehicle too closely. Sudden stops increase the risk of a rear-end accident. Because of the recreation vehicle’s larger steel and fiberglass frame, it can cause you more serious injuries and vehicle damage.
3. Never merge in front of a bus, semi-truck driver or an RV unless you see both their headlights in the rear-view mirror. They can’t adjust for any sudden changes to your speed, so you need to be far enough ahead of them before moving over.
4. Be patient anytime you see snowbirds on the road. They may be inexperienced with the area and its road conditions. A large cause of snowbird-related accidents is distracted driving while navigating the area. Improper passing by other drivers is another frequent cause.
5. Turning a large scale vehicle takes plenty of space and skill. Be patient while waiting for this turn and be sure you are out of their turning path.
6. As with large commercial trucks, RV drivers must carry a special driver’s license for Class A or Class B motorhomes. If your elderly loved one plans to be on the road in a large-scale vehicle, encourage them to take a driving test periodically with the motorhome to ensure they are safe drivers on the road.
Carefully map your route before your departure
If you know the general route that you want to take on your summer RV trip, look into the road and potential environmental conditions that could impede the safety of you and your passengers. If there are road closures, find an alternate route. If a certain area has heavy construction or is prone to environmental conditions such as rockslides, landslides or simply has a road that is narrower than you are comfortable with, find a different way to go that will ensure your driving confidence and your family’s safety.
Practice driving your RV and purchase appropriate auto insurance
There are several aspects of recreational vehicles that are vastly different from driving a car, truck or van. RVs are generally wider, taller and heavier than other vehicles and require great care when breaking, turning and approaching certain thresholds for clearance as well as roadside obstacles you might encounter. Keeping all of these aspects in mind, it doesn’t hurt to take the RV out for a spin and familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of RV driving. Get comfortable in all conditions and hit the road with confidence in your RV-driving skills.
In the case of any type of RV accident or theft, appropriate insurance is critical. Contact your insurance company and look into an RV policy that will best serve you on your summer road trip.
Don’t overload the RV and secure all items inside
An RV is heavy, tall and wide; as such, it is important to remember not to over-pack or stuff your recreational vehicle with heavy objects you don’t necessarily need. Likewise, properly securing all items on the inside of an RV will help prevent any distractions while you are driving if a heavy item suddenly pulls loose and is flying around the vehicle.
Perform regular maintenance for your RV
All vehicles need routine check-ups, oil changes, brake checks, and more throughout the duration of your ownership. RVs are no exception to this rule! Perform routine maintenance at your local mechanic or RV specialist to ensure you are hitting the road safely and without worry.
Vehicle Maintenance (BEFORE the trip)
Because RVs are usually only used for long trips, it can be difficult to remember to perform regular maintenance. Be sure to let the engine run at least once a month to lubricate all the engine parts and allow you to monitor any fluid loss. Top off the fluids to adequate levels before taking off for any trip.
Tire pressure checks are pivotal for safety. When the weather is warmer, the air pressure within the tire expands, so it is common to feel the vehicle pulling to right or left if tire pressure uneven. In fact, most tire blowouts occur because of uneven pressure distribution among the four tires, so use a tire pressure gauge to check the tires before driving the RV. Most tires have the ideal PSI printed on the tire walls. You can also use the safety information printed inside the driver doorjamb, glove compartment or even your vehicle manual.
If you are using a trailer hitch, ensure all electrical wires are set up accurately. Test brake lights and blinker lights all around the vehicle. Faulty or misconnected wires can easily cause a collision if the driver behind you is unable to predict your driving actions.
Long-Distance Driving Safety
Trailer-hitch RVs can be quite dangerous if you do not have experience towing vehicles. In fact, a common mistake many make is not having enough towing power in their truck or van for a large-structure RV trailer. Before setting up the trailer hitch, check your vehicle’s manual for towing capacity. You can also contact a local RV company to ensure your make and model is suited to properly tow your RV trailer.
Follow traffic laws for vehicle towing as if you are driving a commercial freight truck. Heed all speed limit signs specific to towing vehicles, as these indicate hazardous road conditions that can cause serious accidents, especially if excessive speed is a factor.
In addition, watch for slope grade signs. When you are towing a large vehicle, the gravitational pull of a steep slope combined with speed can make it difficult for you to control the vehicle. Shift into a lower gear for better vehicle control, and be sure you use proper braking methods when necessary.
Turns are a common cause of accidents for hitch-structure RVs. Allow adequate room for any turns without compromising the hitch structure. If the hitch setup is stressed from a sharp turn, it could result in a vehicle tip or even rollover.
If you have any other questions about your vehicle’s towing capacity or RV driving tips, contact your local RV dealer.
It is possible to prevent a snowbird or RV-related accident in the Phoenix metro area simply by being more aware and patient. If your beloved senior was injured in an accident while visiting Arizona, contact SGP Law today. Fill out our contact form for a quick follow-up call to schedule your free consultation.