Lane-savvy driving – the safe way to travel

10

By Greg Illes
Transitioning from driving a car to herding a big RV down the road can be both a pleasure and a challenge. Dragging the big beast around corners and through dips and bumps is one of the lessons, but perhaps the area most in need of detailed attention is lane alignment.

True in all rigs but more so in class A’s, finding that “sweet spot” in your lane is not necessarily intuitive – especially if you have many years of car experience. Your brain only knows the car-relative lane-sighting target. And in fact, the sweet spot will change depending on your immediate circumstances. Cross winds and passing trucks can strongly influence where you want to position your rig, not to mention curbside signs, brush and parked vehicles.

To start with, learn the best way to check your alignment. Typically, this is done with a quick glance to each of the wide-angle side mirrors. When the distance is the same to the white line (right) and the yellow line (left), then you are centered. Now check the position of your head with respect to the center of the lane because it’s likely to be well to the left. Once you have this visual/mental picture, you can center yourself by sighting on that more-left side of the lane.

Knowing how and if you are centered becomes crucially important when you’re negotiating a narrow roadway. Lanes in the U.S .can be 14 feet wide on a big interstate, but only 8 feet wide on a back-country road (with many rigs 8.5 feet wide, or 10.5 feet counting the mirrors!).

But you don’t always want to be exactly centered. There are several circumstances when it’s highly advisable to drift toward one side of your lane or the other. You may need to alter your alignment by as much as two feet under some conditions.

Passing trucks

Whether it’s the same or opposite direction, drift slightly away from the truck well before you are passing. Most professional drivers do this, which you’ll notice when you start paying attention. This habit buys a margin of safety in the event of a swerve or wind gust.

Parked vehicles

Give some clearance to curbside obstacles or parked vehicles. Remember that if your rig is one foot away from something, your mirror will skim it. Also know that a car door can swing out three feet or more when it opens in your direction.

Gusty crosswinds

Stay on the upwind side of the lane, for you will always be nudged a bit downwind before you can fully react.

Driving professionally and lane-consciously will make your trips safer and more comfortable, so it’s worth the study and practice to perfect your technique.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at www.divver-city.com/blog.

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Wayne
1 month ago

I have an endorsement on my drivers license to pull trailers over 10,000 pounds.
Took a test to get this endorsement.
Been pulling trailers for years.
It has bothered me while pulling through the western states on the interstates that there are signs demanding that trucks with trailers stay in the right hand lane and drive slower than the rest of the traffic!
I ignore this as I do not feel safe driving slower than everybody else and I do not feel safe sitting in the lane that other folks are trying to “merge” into or out of.
That has to frustrate them too.
So if we are traveling through I choose a more center lane, go with the flow and feel much safer doing so.

Dave
1 month ago

We need a great towing, driving reference section that readers can quickly access. Inexperienced and hotrod RV drivers are both dangerous.

Gordy
1 month ago

I am in favor of there being a requirement of some type of Drivers license endorsement for those who want to drive or pull RVs.

I know it will not solve all the problems but it could help.

Jerry Coleman
1 month ago

I was trying to work my way around a Kenworth garbage truck in our neighborhood and was being very careful to watch the passenger mirror to make sure I had him cleared. I also had a brick mailbox on the left that was about a foot off the 18 ft wide roadway. All of a sudden my mirror was gone because his mirror had contacted mine and just broke mine off. No damage to the Kenworth mirror.

Vanessa Simmons
1 month ago

Met a semi on a very narrow steel bridge in Oregon. I was going the posted 25mph but he wasn’t the vacuum/breeze created swung my TT into the side of the bridge and my awning caught on one of the uprights and ripped it off. When I got to my destination I called a local RV shop and they knew immediately the bridge. Told me they get 50 plus calls a year about missing mirror and awnings from that bridge. I haven’t driven that road again but I did discover that it was to be replaced the following year.

Dick and Sandy near Buffalo, NY
1 month ago

Web has it correct with crosswinds. Large trailers, 5th wheels and Class A’s are big sails in the wind and can be pushed around easily. As soon as you think which way your rig is going to be pushed, you better be prepared to counter either way. When passing I attempt to get around any vehicle as soon and as safely as possible giving lots of room when returning to my lane. When being passed on the left I try to move over to the right side of my lane to give any large vehicle as much room as possible. Each and every passing or being passed event is unique and must be treated as a new situation. Defensive driving is a must.

Stay safe, Stay well.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Many cars and trucks now have lane centering electronic devices. Chuck, has anyone learned if these work when pulling a trailer or a fifth wheel trailer ?

Thomas Kemp
1 month ago

My 2018 Silverado has this feature and works well. However, be aware that when the device beeps after crossing the line, your trailer/5th wheel has already crossed.

MD_Steve
1 month ago

The lane sensor also doesn’t see obstacles like mailboxes. It only knows the lane markers, which you may have many reasons to “bend” on any given trip

WEB
1 month ago

With crosswinds, you may want to stay slightly to the upwind side, but ever notice if a large truck, building or a clump of trees gets between you and the wind, the vehicle will pull you to the windward side pretty fast. So I still try to stay centered… you never know which side you get tousled to.