By Mike Sherman
We have addressed this subject in the past, but perhaps without a greater urgency to the dangers of sleeping in your RV while parked on the shoulder of the roadway. We advocate getting off the road if you become disabled, even if it requires just a short tow. A shopping center parking lot or rest stop area could save your life. Even though the circumstances reported below are different (as revealed upon further research after the original news report and my initial response to it), the news article below drives that point home in a very sad way.
SUTTER COUNTY, Calif. (KCRA) — May 5, 2019 — Three people were killed and an 11-year-old girl was hospitalized after a driver plowed into a trailer where a family was sleeping along Highway 113 near Knights Landing on Saturday night, the California Highway Patrol said. (See follow-up below.)
Ismael Huazo-Jardinez, 33, of Yuba City, is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence, the CHP said.
Huazo-Jardinez was driving a Chevrolet Avalanche “at a high rate of speed” when he failed to negotiate a curve on Highway 113, north of Jennings Court, just before 10 p.m. His truck left the road and crashed into the trailer that held the sleeping family, the CHP said.
A 38-year-old man, a 34-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy were killed. The 11-year-old girl was flown to UC Davis Medical Center with major injuries. Huazo-Jardinez was treated for moderate injuries before being booked into the Sutter County Jail. No other details were released.
The alleged drunk driver likely has no insurance, and it looks like an 11-year-old girl is left without her parents and younger brother. This tragedy could have easily been avoided because it does not appear the RV was disabled. Dad was probably just tired and needed some sleep. The area is rural in nature, so he probably felt his family would be safe on the shoulder.
It also points out the danger of remaining in an RV if you encounter a breakdown. If you are in a motorhome, you can easily be injured or killed if someone runs into your rig. They are, after all, made with a lot of plywood! If you have a tow vehicle, that is where you should probably remain for other safety reasons I have mentioned, such as an assault.
So what avenue does one take? Stay farther away from the RV in case it gets hit by a drunk driver, or remain inside to avoid other potential problems? Have you ever experienced a breakdown on a lonely stretch of highway in the middle of the night?
We did – several years ago while traveling across Interstate 80 in the Nevada desert, out in the middle of nowhere at 1:00 o’clock in the morning. Our Class A motorhome experienced a blown rear tire (inside dual). Fortunately, we had cell service – which really surprised me, considering our location. The shoulder was just wide enough for us to get out of the lane of traffic. I placed orange cones on the shoulder and contacted ERS. I gave them our mile marker location and explained the problem. The operator asked if we were in a safe position. I said “No, not really”. She asked if I wanted the Nevada Highway Patrol to respond. I said yes, if they weren’t too busy. An officer showed up within 30 minutes and remained on site until the tire service company arrived about an hour later.
We were fortunate to have the officer’s patrol car parked at the rear of the RV. I had my family wait outside, up the side of the dirt bank. The tire service was timely considering our location. Overall, the experience was not as bad as it could have been.
FOLLOW-UP: In doing a little more research for this week’s article, I discovered the “trailer” in this instance was actually a farm worker’s home and not a recreational vehicle. Comments by the “landlord’ alerted me to the lack of details in the original story. The home was, in fact, set well off the roadway shoulder, but still close enough for an out-of-control car to make contact. However, I decided to run with the story based on the subject matter for a safety warning.
It did offer up the opportunity to advocate one should always strive to find a safe place to park. Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How was it ultimately resolved?
Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.
Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below.