How to Stay Calm While Driving Your RV

Let’s be honest – driving a large RV can be intimidating. Even if you have had your driver’s license for twenty or thirty years, there is a big difference between driving a small sedan and a large motorhome. If you are going to be able to fully enjoy your RV adventures, one of the first steps is to make sure you can get comfortable behind the wheel of your new rig. A vacation isn’t fun when you have to stress about the next time you are going to be driving, so learn how to relax and pilot your RV safely to and from your destinations.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to get comfortable with anything is simply to do it as often as possible. You aren’t going to get better at driving your RV if you never drive it – so get out there and put it in motion. At first, try to find places like empty parking lots where you can

Driving an RV Doesn't Have to Be Stressful
Driving an RV Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

spend some time practicing without the pressure of having other vehicles in the way. Ask an experienced RV-driving friend to take you somewhere remote so you can work on things like making turns, backing up, etc. Working on your driving in a no-pressure environment is just the thing you need to start building confidence.

Mirrors Are Your Friend

You should always use your mirrors when driving any kind of vehicle, but mirrors are even more important on a motorhome or when pulling a large trailer. The information you get from checking your side mirrors is extremely valuable when it comes time to change lanes or make a turn. If you are able to monitor your mirrors regularly, while keeping your eyes also on the road ahead, you will feel better because you will have a good idea of what is going on around you.

Pay Attention!

Again, this is another point that is just as valuable when driving a ‘regular’ vehicle as it is when driving an RV. The motorhome or trailer that you are traveling with has a lot of mass, which means it has a lot of momentum. You can’t stop a large RV in a hurry, so pay attention to the road ahead of you at all times. If you were to get distracted even for just a moment, you may not notice that cars in front of you are stopping quickly – and you may not be able to brake in time to prevent an accident. A big part of staying calm on the road while driving an RV is paying attention to what is happening in front of you. As long as you are attentive and aware of your surroundings, your driving fears should quickly fade away.

Increase Following Distance

You should not follow the vehicle in front of you as closely as you can when driving a car or pickup truck. This also comes back to the size of the RV and its increased stopping distance. Provide more space between your RV and the car in front of you so that you have more time to stop and avoid an accident. Defensive driving should always be the goal in an RV – never drive your RV with an aggressive attitude.

Staying calm comes down to being prepared. If you can spend some time practicing and learn good habits like checking your mirrors and not following closely, you will find that driving your RV isn’t nearly as intimidating as you once believed. With those fears pushed aside, you can now focus on having a great vacation with your family and friends.

  • How about we educate the other drivers. I can’t tell you how many cars (and semis for that matter) pass us and then literally pull over in front of us and slow down. I try to leave plenty of space but others see that as an invitation to pull in right in front of us.

    • Renee this is a reality, it is very dangerous and can make me angry when it happens. What helps is for me to realize that it is a reality that is not going away. It is going to happen over and over everytime I RV. So if I don’t learn to deal with it I am going to be unable to enjoy RVing or worse fail to control my anger and drive in a way that puts my family and others in danger. What you can control is you, so expect the cutoffs to happen, and simply restablish your safe following distance over and over again as it occurs. This will slow you down marginally, so you have to allow more time to cover the distance than you do now. Everytime you successfully do this it is a victory for you, you have protected your family from danger and have restored the joy to your travel. You have not allowed the ignorance or selfishness of poor drivers to influence you. You are the Man!

    • That is crazy . I try to stay under the speed limit and if you see alot of semi drivers drive under so, they don get caught in the mad group of weaving in and out. Try to find a gap in the traffic and see if that works.

  • Take your time. You will get there at the right time if you need to take a break there are lots of reststops..the journey should be fun also

    • Good advice. Plan your day so you have plenty of time to get to your next stop. Long trips don’t push it plan stops to rest.

  • Mirrors are your friends in major ways, but you missed a big one. The right-side one lets you know exactly where you are on the road. By always being aware of where you are in relation to the shoulder stripe, you never need to stress about things like bridges – don’t be one of the amateurs who moves far over because the view ahead doesn’t give you a good enough idea of where you are in relation to the bridge.

  • Right on the dashboard where your speed oil pressure and everything else is I put a small piece of paper, with the exact height of my travel trailer, not in the way of any other instrumental information, I actually went on the roof and measured the highest point, normally the air conditioning unit. So If I’m traveling on a back road and come across a underpass or under a bridge, or even one of those old covered bridges, I always know the height of my trailer, and never have in the back of my head am I going to make it, face it sometimes we get so used to driving on the highways with 18 wheelers or huge motorhomes we tend to disregard our height because we know its a lot less than all of those other vehicles, so we forget the exact height. Then when you do hit a back road obstacle your a little nervous and even stop and have someone check as you inch forward. A friend of mine was way in the backwoods and actually had to let a lot of air out of his trailer to go under the bridge, because turning around and back tracking was really not an option, did take a while for his little emergency compressor to fill the tires back up, which meant he lost all the nitrogen that they are filled with now a days. Just a thought for some of you.

  • Anyone over 70 years old should be required to take a drivers test before driving a motorhome. I have seen senior citizens out there who can barely walk, driving a motorhome. There are too many citizens rv’ing who shouldn’t be. Stay home and stay off the road if you are old. You are dangerous to the rest of us.

    • I agree Romancegirl! Everyone who drives an RV should be required to take a drivers test before driving a motorhome. My husband and I are senior citizens and have been driving oversized vehicles all of our adult lives. He and I both have perfect driving records and are lucky to say we have traveled this country extensively and have not been involved in a major accident. We have however witnessed many less experienced drivers cause senseless accidents. So to say “anyone over 70 years old should be required to take a drivers test” is ageist and thoughtless. Everyone should be required to take at least a driving course given by the seller or their insurance company. I might add in closing, that it is my sincerest wish that you live long enough to have others tell you to stay home and stay off the roads so they can enjoy their lives. Best wishes and happy motoring.

    • So i under stand that when we all get old we are to turn in and stay home as we cannot do a thing because we are over 70. One day you will be 70 . As my self maybe 70 is to old to drive but if you have sum one younger and can drive let him or her have the wheel as it will help them down the road.. Remember ever one do not turn 70 as you must stay home.

    • Along with your suggestion that old people should not be allowed to drive, I can send you a list of the jobs “girls” should not be able to do.
      -I’m not old…yet!

  • As a semi retired truck driver don’t forget how long your whole unit is. Towing a car behind my motorhome cannot see in mirrors when passing another vehicle. Also handles a lot different than semi. Just use good driving habits!!!

  • When you leave for a long trip, you are on vacation, what’s the rush. I plan my day for 50 mph, so it gives me plenty of time to stop often and relax. By the way, I’m 75 and I think I’m still safe

  • I am 69 and driving a 40 ft motorhome. I try to keep a safe distance between me the car in front of me. Last month I was rear ended by a 24 year old semi driver who wasn’t paying attention to the road in a construction zone and didn’t see that the traffic was stopped in front of him. I watched him coming in my mirrors and backup camera and couldn’t do a thing about it. My tow vehicle was shoved up into the back of my motorhome. I had stopped with enough distance between me and the car in front so they were not affected. So I agree that everyone needs to take a driving test, not just us old folks. And I plan on staying behind the wheel after I turn 70.
    widowed and full time RV’er.