Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Driving safety: What we’ve learned from highway mishaps

On September 12, 2023, a family in Utah was on their way for tacos when suddenly an object hit and shattered their windshield. When the dash cam was replayed in slow motion, the family was able to see that the base of an office chair (without wheels) caused the damage. Thankfully, everyone was okay—just minor cuts and abrasions. You can watch the video here.

This incident reminded me of highway mishaps that we’ve personally experienced while RVing. I believe that we can all learn from these incidents to perhaps avoid them or at least lessen the chance of damage to our RVs and passengers, too.

Don’t follow too closely

It was bumper-to-bumper traffic when we made our way through Atlanta a while ago. We tried to keep a safe distance away from the vehicle in front of us, but whenever we backed off another car or truck zipped into our lane right ahead of us. If we backed off from that vehicle, another one slipped in front of us again. It was aggravating and unnerving at the same time. We finally decided to forget about staying back so far and instead kept a very close watch on the cars ahead of us.

Yes, the inevitable happened. Suddenly, a car up ahead skidded to the left. This caused a chain reaction as vehicles that followed too closely were forced to suddenly apply their brakes. Several vehicles ahead of us experienced some “bumper kissing” with other vehicles. We were able to escape without incident, but four other vehicles were not so fortunate. If traffic had been moving at a faster rate of speed, I’m sure the damage would have been much worse.

What we learned

  • Avoid driving your RV through large cities whenever possible. Find a route around metropolitan areas, especially if driving in heavy traffic unnerves you.
  • Try to schedule your travel plans so that you avoid common rush hours (7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.)
  • Tune in to a local radio station or check your cell phone’s navigation map to spot slowdowns ahead. Even if you don’t choose an alternate route, you’ll be aware of the traffic issues up ahead and be ready to slow down your rig.
  • When possible, keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the others ahead of you. Always be patient and alert.

Eliminate distractions

We thought we’d seen it all—distracted drivers, that is. Then, on a recent travel day, we saw two distracted drivers. The first vehicle we encountered was in an adjacent highway lane. The truck alternately sped up and slowed down—a distinct giveaway of a distracted driver. He eventually took an exit, and I could see that the driver was shaving while driving! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

The second distracted driver was just as dangerous. She was applying mascara while maneuvering her vehicle down the road. Her visor was down, and she alternated between checking her mirror and peeking below the visor to see the road ahead. Oh, she also appeared to be texting on her phone. I guess she was steering with her knees? Unbelievable!

What we learned

  • Watch for the signs of a distracted driver. Weaving from lane to lane or slowing then speeding up often happens when a driver is distracted.
  • Stay well away from the distracted driver. Remain behind or several lanes over from a distracted driver until you are able to pass them.
  • Eliminate distractions from inside your own vehicle. Turn off the radio or other devices if they hinder your concentration.
  • Make sure items in your vehicle are secured before taking the road. Road vibrations can cause items to shift and even fall, causing a distraction for the driver.

Avoid sudden lane changes

I’m sure we’re not alone. Almost every RV driver has been cut off in traffic, just like us. Once you drive an RV, you’re better aware of the challenges and usually do your best to avoid sudden lane changes. However, we were recently driving our RV on a divided highway a bit below the posted speed limit of 65. Suddenly a travel trailer pulled alongside our rig and then accelerated to pass. Just as the passing RV cleared our front bumper, the driver cut all the way over to the right and abruptly slowed in order to make the exit. The travel trailer swerved several times, but the driver was able to regain control.

What we learned

  • Always, always signal your intentions. Do this well before you change lanes.
  • Use your rearview mirrors, bumper camera, or other devices to help you know when it’s safe to pull your rig in front of the vehicle you’ve passed.
  • Know your route. If you have a travel partner, let them navigate and alert the driver to upcoming lane changes or exits well in advance. If traveling alone, go over your travel route until you know it well, even if you plan to use a navigating app or other route device.

Watch for flying debris

The family mentioned in the referenced video explained that the incident happened too fast for them to avoid being hit. I understand. We once hit a large bird (vulture?) while traveling in our RV at 55 mph. The result? A dent in our truck’s bumper and a broken front grill. We didn’t see the bird approaching. It just dove in front of our truck, out of nowhere. Some flying debris is unavoidable, but you can take precautions for the rest.

What we learned

  • It’s okay to travel a bit below the speed limit. (I shudder to think of the mess if we’d hit that bird at 65 or 70 mph!) Stay to the right or move over so that faster drivers can easily pass by your rig.
  • Be careful behind trucks. Garbage trucks, pickups, and even RVs carry potential fly-away items. Stay well back and remain alert for flying objects.
  • Buckle up. Always properly wear your seatbelt when your RV is on the road. Ditto for all passengers riding with you.

Learn from others

RVers can learn from highway mishaps like these and stay safer while traveling on the road. These are just a few examples of what we’ve experienced.

Let’s help each other! Add your own experiences and what you’ve learned from them in the comments below.


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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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wahooncx (@guest_257250)
1 month ago

I highly recommend a dash cam in the RV for your protection. We use them at work in all of our trucks. They have proven invaluable when involved in an incident. In more than one case the officer was going to ticket our driver based on false statements from the other parties. The video proved them wrong. I use a Nexar One for personal use. Money well spent.

Neal Davis (@guest_257123)
1 month ago

Thank you, Gail. Very glad that you avoided mishap in Atlanta. It certainly can be a challenging place to drive.

Steve Lane (@guest_256818)
1 month ago

Just finished a 4k mile trip (3.2k towing) from Salem,OR to Mt Rushmore via I5/I90 out and I80/I5 back. We also traveled several state highways and county roads. Interstates pretty rough in places and lots of construction. Lots of trucks. One incident near Billings, MT involving stopped traffic and construction. I failed to put the truck in the tow/haul mode (engine brake on thankfully) when leaving our park to travel east. Traffic came to sudden stop (which I saw) but truck and 5th wheel didn’t want to stop very well because tow/haul not engaged (lesson learned and I’ve towed over 14k). Thankfully, I was able to stop.

Joe M (@guest_256771)
1 month ago

Great article! When traveling north and south in GA one may want to avoid using I-75 all together and stay totally out of Atlanta. There is a good RV friendly western route between Calhoun in North GA, and to or from Valdosta or Tallahassee. The route is virtually all 4 lane with great speeds- mostly 65 mph. Traffic so light one can almost see grass coming up in the cracks of the road.

Tom (@guest_256920)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe M

Dodge Atlanta at all costs. Even 285 is crowded. We leave 85, going North, around Columbus, head to Macon, then country roads North. Repeat for South.

Jim Johnson (@guest_256750)
1 month ago

Michigan has enacted some very stiff penalties for distracted driving. It is far more than just having your phone on a dash mount. If you are pulled over and the phone display is anything that requires frequent visual interaction, you will be ticketed. Michigan distracted driving law

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