The first thing I would like to point out is that driving a motorhome is nothing like driving your car or even a large truck. My wife and I took a one day driving course when we first purchased our motorhome and even though they try and teach you as much as possible, there is still a lot to learn that you won’t fully understand until you get behind the wheel of something this large and drive it for yourself.
The first thing you will need to do is determine if the state you are a residence in and hold a valid driver’s license will require you to get a separate driver’s license for operating a large motorhome. As an example, the State of Texas requires all large motorhome owners who register their vehicle in the state to have more than just a normal driver’s license used for driving a car.
The following states require a special license for driving and registering a Motorhome.
California > 26,000lbs Connecticut > 10,000lbs
Hawaii > 26,000lbs Illinois > 16,000lbs
Kansas > 26,000lbs Maryland > 26,000lbs
North Carolina > 26,000lbs New Mexico > 26,000lbs
Nevada > 10,000lbs New York > 26,000lbs
Pennsylvania > 26,000lbs South Carolina > 26,000lbs
Texas > 26,000lbs Washington DC > 26,000lbs
Wyoming > 26,000lbs
Another key to remember is that you are now driving something that weighs on average 25,000 pounds. This is a big difference than driving a normal car that weighs on average 5,000 pounds. This difference in weight means that you must realize your reaction times must be faster and you must start breaking long before you need to stop and make sure you have a greater distance between you and the vehicle in front of you when going down the road.
One of the Key driving techniques you will learn to use is called Turning at your hip. This is where you make sure your hip clears any obstructions in the road such as a curb and then start your turn. If you start your turn any earlier, you will most likely run over the curb. This is important for both right hand and left hand turns. Also you must remember that unlike your car. The back end of your motorhome will actually swing in an outward motion so if people are in the lane right next to you , you must be careful not to collide with them with your back end.
Next you should learn how to drive using your cameras. This include both the mirror cameras that look down the sides of your motorhome and the rear view camera that will allow you to watch and see what is coming up from behind while you are driving. The mirror cameras usually only kick in when you turn you turn signals on. This allows you to see if someone has come up beside you before you turn into them. Remember now that you are driving something much bigger than your car, your blind site is much larger also and the cameras help minimize your blind areas but most do not remove them in there entirety.
A key point in helping you drive down the road much easier and safely is to make sure your motorhome is balanced throughout the rig. This means to make sure you pack the motorhome both inside and outside evenly so it rides down the road straight. One way to determine if you have done this properly is to load it as if you are ready to hit the road and then go to a truck stop and have it weighed. Make sure to have weighed each set of tires separately and to make sure to weigh the right and left side separately also. This will show you to determine if you have distributed the weight evenly.
One thing you will read in many articles on driving a motorhome is that you can’t back up when towing a vehicle. This is actually false, it’s not that you can’t, it’s that you should not or at least be very cautious when doing so. The reason for this is the tow bars you are towing with have a tendency to jackknife very easily and can damage either your tow vehicle or your motorhome itself. My wife and I find that if we do have to back up, she will get in the tow vehicle and turn the wheel as I turn to make sure it doesn’t jackknife and damage anything. The rear view camera allows me to do this slowly and monitor the progress as we go.
When driving a motorhome, please make sure not to drive once you get tired. My wife and I find that after about 6 hours of driving, our reaction times are diminished and we no long feel we are safe to be on the road. There are many places you can pull over in a motorhome to take a nap and relax as to not injure yourself or others. Rest stops and truck stops are convenient places along the roads that you can pull over and get a few hours of sleep. Keep in mind when you are driving a motorhome, you actually have your bed with you at all times.
In closing: many RV dealers throughout the United States will offer some kind of Motorhome Driving class. If they do please make it a point to take it, it will teach you all the proper skills to safely maneuver your motorhome on the road. If you are not able to find a class in your community, then take your new motorhome to the nearest mall parking lot after hours and drive around. Even take some cones with you to help assist you in learning to make turns and to practice backing up and parking. One other key thing that I was told once by an instructor and it has stuck with me ever since. If you find yourself blocking traffic because someone won’t allow you the space to turn, just sit there until they move. People may honk there horn at you but always remember you will never see these people again so “Who Cares”.
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