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Readers say THIS is the worst kind of road to drive. We offer tips

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By Nanci Dixon
Awhile ago we asked our readers “What kind of roads do you dread driving down the most?” Of those who voted in our poll, the highest percentage answered that they dread driving down icy/snowy roads the most, followed by city/urban roads, windy roads through mountains, dirt roads and, finally, flat boring roads. We weren’t surprised that most people dislike icy and snowy roads the most – winter driving, particularly driving on ice or snow, can white-knuckle even the calmest driver.

COLD WEATHER DRIVING, “OH, SNOW!”

Reader Grant G. commented that he can stop whenever needed because they have everything they need in the RV. “I avoid icy/snowy roads altogether. I just don’t go there and if somehow I got caught in that situation I would pull over at the first safe stop and wait. In my RV I have everything I need to not drive. I always check weather reports when driving anywhere I might find that situation.”

Icy and snowy roads aren’t an issue for Irv, who writes, “I don’t fear icy/snowy roads when pulling my trailer. I DON’T DRIVE ON THEM!”

John M. knows that it is possible to lose control quickly. “Snowy icy mountain roads are, to me, the most difficult, as you must add the road conditions to the people in front of you and behind you as well as oncoming traffic. With ice and/or black ice, in a fraction of a second, you can completely lose control.

Winter driving tips

Still planning on some winter camping? If caught in an icy snowstorm, here are a few winter driving tips:

  • Go slow, resist sudden acceleration.
  • If driving a diesel vehicle turn off the exhaust brake. Exhaust brakes can cause sudden stopping that starts a slide.
  • Turn off Cruise control. Again, sudden braking or acceleration is not a friend on ice.
  • Allow extra stopping room.
  • Use chains where allowed if winter snow and ice travel is unavoidable.
  • Pull off and wait it out.

HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION

Many people commented that they dread driving through highway construction. (This wasn’t an option on our poll but it should have been!) Our readers do not like maneuvering big, long RVs through narrow lanes next to concrete barricades and cones that sometimes go flying. I don’t blame them! These are definitely among the worst roads for driving!

Barry says, “After more than 50 years of driving a tractor trailer, travel trailer, 5th wheels, and motorhomes, I find narrow roads in construction zones the most nerve-wracking. Add into the equation 18 wheelers either passing me in these narrow lanes, or oncoming, and my anxiety level goes way up.”

Stan W. wrote: “Worst road condition for me, driving through construction zones on interstates with lane widths changing from 14 foot to 10 foot with concrete barriers for shoulders. Throw in lane shifts, rush hour, rain, snow, nighttime and people staring at their phones driving 15 mph over the construction zone speed limit. This is the worst for me.”

Another unfortunate part of driving through construction? Dirt and damage! Martin A. knows this well. He writes, “We ran into 5 miles of oily gravel construction in the middle of Kansas a few years ago, sure made our camper a mess. Had to scrub with soap and a sponge. The car wash sprayer wouldn’t get it off.”

Estep mentions bridge construction: “The worst is probably the narrow lane construction or bridges that are 1950s lane width. For example, try the twin bridges over the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers in Cairo, IL. These are narrow enough to swap mirrors with oncoming traffic. Been over them many times and have seen mirror parts scattered on the road surface.”

Construction zone driving tips

  • Watch the merge/lane closed signs carefully and move over as soon as possible.
  • Watch for work crews and obey signs and their directions.
  • Remember: If your mirror will clear, the RV will clear.
  • Leave space between your vehicle and the one in front. 25 percent of fatalities in work zones are rear-end collisions.
  • Avoid distractions and concentrate on the road.
  • Go slow. Don’t let a vehicle behind push you faster than your comfort zone or posted speed.
  • Explore your route pre-trip for construction on up-to-the-minute apps or online maps.

CITY/URBAN DRIVING AND TRAFFIC

Many folks said that driving through high-traffic cities is what they dread the most. Last year, pre-COVID, my husband and I made a wrong turn in Las Vegas and ended up on the Strip with a 40-foot motorhome and tow vehicle. Not good!

Joni W. left a comment saying, “About a year-and-a-half ago we were driving through El Paso, TX, and they closed I-10 through town. We had to exit and drive a very circuitous route through the downtown narrow streets. Thankfully we were only able to go about 10 mph in traffic. Swinging a 41-foot fifth wheel around sharp corners on narrow streets and on hills was the stuff nightmares are made of. We survived, though, and plan to avoid that type of driving at all costs.”

Thom agrees: “City driving, because that’s where you can get hit by someone else through no fault of your own. I’ll take a lonely mountain pass any day.”

Reader Ed K. says, “City streets are the worst. You have issues with congestion, low branches in the neighborhoods, vandalized signs, poor parking and narrow streets. Snow and ice can be avoided by waiting for the storm to pass, and mountains can be driven slow.”

Tips for city driving

  • Leave the RV behind and use your tow vehicle for sightseeing.
  • Adjust the mirrors to see the side of your vehicle.
  • Signal early to warn other drivers of your intentions.
  • Right turns – swing out enough to avoid clipping the curb or other obstacle on the right side. Watch rear in mirrors.
  • Wait for cars to clear to allow turns. Most people will move over when they realize more  turning room is needed.
  • Know your tail-swing.
  • Pick the widest, least congested roads possible.
  • Stuck and lost in a major city? Keep an eye on the city buses and follow their route. If they can make it through, your RV should be able to also.
  • Plan your trip outside of rush hour.

POORLY MAINTAINED ROADS

Towing our Jeep on I70 to Colorado shook the electrical harness so bad that it spent two weeks in the shop being rewired before we could travel again. I once directed my husband to such a bad boondocking site that every cabinet opened and spilled contents onto the floor… and him.

Here are a few things our readers had to say about roads that make you say “Yikes!”

Dr4F says, “One type of road missing from your poll choices that I absolutely HATE is one riddled with potholes, seams every 10 feet and huge chunks missing.”

Jim O. dreads bad roads too: “The roads I dislike are paved roads in such disrepair that we must slow down to 45 mph or slower to prevent damage to the RV.”

Wayne adds, “At the top of my list is poorly maintained interstates. A recent trip through Illinois was so bad that everything in cabinets was shaken loose, mats stored on bunks were on the floor.”

Tips for driving bad roads

  • Secure everything in the RV before taking off.
  • Slow down.
  • Avoid potholes if possible – but don’t swerve out of your lane.
  • Keep tools to tighten all those screws loosened!

MOUNTAIN ROADS, TAKE ME HOME… 

Ken L. does not like mountain roads and considers them among the worst roads for driving: “The worst-case scenario is the winding mountain roads, especially downhill, trying to navigate narrow passes, or, second being the city roads and trying to navigate right hand turns. If only there was a class on respect, courtesy, or common sense the world may be a better place. Since this is not the case, I, for one, have more respect for other individuals towing, especially tractor trailers. I can say I have first-hand experience and know what they have to deal with.”

Anne G. says, “We did the Top of the World Highway from Canada to Alaska. Scary!!!! Not planning on doing it again, but if we did, it would be Alaska to Canada. Why? Against the mountainside and not on the very edge looking way down! Came to one place, about a block long, only wide enough for one RV. No backing up with a toad.”

Tips for driving mountain roads

  • Research the mountain roads and passes ahead of time.
  • Be aware of the season and potential for snow and ice.
  • Keep engine cool going up the mountain:
    • Turn off AC.
    • Pull over when safe and let engine idle if overheating.
  • Keep brakes cool going down mountain:
    • Use exhaust brake if equipped.
    • Use lower gear to slow vehicle.
    • Tap brakes rather than holding
    • Pull over and let brakes (and nerves) cool, if needed.
  • Stay slow and steady.
  • Be aware of wheel placement at all times.
  • Stay focused!

WIND

I added a category: Wind! Wind is the one element that can stop our trip dead in its tracks and send me looking for a place to camp. My husband hates driving in the wind. Having been literally pushed from one side of a bridge to the other by an unforeseen gust of wind, we check projected wind speeds before even taking off.

Tips for driving in heavy winds

  • Check the wind forecast, particularly the projected wind gusts and any advisories before departing.
  • Go slower than normal speeds.
  • Be aware of the vehicles around you: Wind gusts affect everyone.
  • Know your wind speed comfort level for your rig.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel.
  • Watch ahead for the windbreaks that will alter the wind on your vehicle.
  • Stop to rest or find a campsite and wait for it to blow over.

Planning your trip? Want to avoid those bad roads? Here is a site that ranks the states with the worst road infrastructure.

Happy and safe travels!

##RVT990

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Liz W
5 months ago

Sometimes you can’t avoid driving in snow and ice. My wife and I camped one night off I-40 and during the night it snowed a dusting of white over the camp and fields. Pretty landscape, little did we know. Everything looked good at the on-ramp as took our place in puzzlingly slow traffic. HA! By the next exit we found ourselves rut-driving 10” deep ruts of icy snow! Within the first mile, on the right a transport vehicle towing a fiver had flipped off the road, to the left a semi was rolled on it’s side, hit repeat every half mile or so. The exits were all piled with deep snow and had semi’s parked in the available roadway – no exiting for us. This was truly white knuckle driving, and it was snowing! After a couple of hours, we saw Amarillo signage and made plans to stop. Plowed exit, phew! Next morning crusted ice on the wheels and wheel wells was so hard and rock encrusted I couldn’t knock it off with a hammer. Go slow, drive in big vehicle ruts, breathe!

CeeCee
5 months ago

Saw a Youtube video that suggested positioning the MH parallel with a stripe in a parking lot, as if the stripe was the lane stripe you want to follow. THEN, place a piece of tape on the windshield, following that line as you look ahead. Paint a line along the tape (we use red nail polish) before removing the tape. This can be done with left and right lanes, using different lines/colors for different height drivers. When driving, keep the red line and the lane line lined up. This really helps with staying where you want to be on the road, especially when it’s narrow. Gusty winds are the worst AFIC.

Tommy Molnar
5 months ago

Whenever possible we take bypasses around big cities. Sometimes it adds several miles and a bunch of time, but the peace of mind and relative relaxation is well worth it, However, the bypass around El Paso is steep and curvy, up and down, but still better than driving through El Paso. I wouldn’t try it in the winter unless I KNEW there was no snow.

Oh, and we have twice had to take our trailer in to get axles straightened ($500 a crack!) because of Grand Canyon sized potholes in Texas construction zones.

Diane Mc
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Ditto to bypasses. The 610 around Houston (driving the I10 thru, couldn’t merge in time ended up on exit in center of city, Besides, crazy traffic. One & done) and the 1604 Loop around San Antonio. Yes adds time, but saves our sanity. We actually have documented when to move over for exit onto these bypasses, then which lanes to stay in to avoid merging traffic and when to begin getting over for exit back on 10. Thanks for info on El Paso bypass. We’ve been curious, but heard it was steep. Going thru El Paso we just stay in the 2nd lane from the left and it seems to work. Had a lot of construction a few years, but appears to be done now.

Bob p
5 months ago

I will differ with you on adjusting your mirrors so you can see the side of your RV. The proper adjustment is to adjust them so it takes a slight tilt of your head outwards to see the side of your vehicle. I’m sure you know what color your vehicle is so why would you want to look at the side. You are adjusting the mirrors so you can see what’s coming behind you, if you are on a highway with 12’ lanes and you are on the right side of your lane 6” from the line and a car is approaching on your left you may not see it because your mirror isn’t looking far enough away from your side to see it. The same applies to you right side mirror, you want to see that right side lane as close as 20-30’ behind you. As a former truck driver you have to know what’s around all the time not just part time.

Ray
6 months ago

Excellent article but I saw no recommendations for apps. For instance we use Google maps to show us traffic conditions well beyond the windshield. Weather apps assist accordingly. Our policy to pull around and park away from big cities and take the tow vehicle in, should we wish to explore the city, works for us.

DW/ND
1 year ago

These are excellent safety reminders! I especially concur with the two comments on interstate work zones and narrow lanes and tailgaters – either in our car or motorhome, especially new or uncaring 18 wheeler drivers who rely 100% on air brakes and instant reaction time – then the phone rings!

Living in snow country teaches one many lessons. We in ND are very well aware of ice and snow and winter driving – that is those of us who have survived a few winters! It’s the new folks and a new drivers who end up in rear end and intersection collisions and rollovers. Being retired, we have the luxury of staying home for the first 3 days of winter roads – and let a few folks learn the hard lessons – without our participation. I do not drive the motorhome on ice – period!

Tony
1 year ago

While I agree that icy or snow covered roads are the worst, followed by heavy winds, I rarely have to drive our RV in the snow or ice and only occasionally drive in heavy winds. On almost every trip I have to drive on my most hated roads. Concrete roads with their expansion joints and uneven elevation between slabs are the baine of our otherwise pleasant journeys. Besides hours of monotonous thumping every second or two, I have found that in both the leaf spring and air ride equipped 18 wheelers I have driven and our non air bag RV, they accelerate the need to tighten or replace parts more often due to the stresses they impose. In case anyone is unclear of how I feal about concrete roads, I hate them.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony

Thanks for clarifying that, Tony. I wasn’t sure. 😆 Take care. 🙂 –Diane

Carson Axtell
1 year ago

The Highway Weather app (https://www.weatherroute.io/) can be used to warn of weather conditions along any route to a chosen destination so that RVers can plan appropriately. It’s available on both Android and iOS.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carson Axtell
Tim Slack
1 year ago

I’d add one more important tip to driving on icy/snowy roads or streets >> be ready to put your transmission in neutral when you’re trying to get REAL slow. An automatic transmission will continue to push the drive wheels, which works against your braking, and you end up skiing down the road with locked-up steering wheels.

Spike
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Slack

Tim, that is one tip my Dad gave me many years ago. Living in hilly country along the Mississippi river valley in Minnesota, driving on narrow hill roads in ice and snow is a given. He always advised, when going on a steep downhill in such conditions, to put the transmission in neutral and just allow the vehicle to roll downhill, only using the brakes enough to slow, but not lock the wheels.

mark
1 year ago

13 state US road trip over 3 months:
Stay away from Memphis. Worst Interstates and roads in America. So bad we had to get an RV tech to come out and redo our 12 volt system pounded too bad in Memphis it failed on us.
Alabama best interstates in USA.
Driving through Albuquerque on I 40 and tractor trailers on both sides and the one on the passenger side was doing about 80 as he passed so close his mirror hit mine and broke the glass in it. He just blew on.
Too many governors and cities have been waiting for someone else to fix their roads. Phoenix. Most of NM. Parts of Arkansas.
Not being political – but this trip didn’t have many “blue states” for us (NM only). But family went through Michigan and reported – do anything and everything to avoid MI. Worst roads in the nation.

California Travel Videos
1 year ago

Agreed with others – strong gusty winds can be scary, especially in a tall Class C. Once we were travelling near Palm Springs and had horrific gusts on Interstate 10. Note to self, whenever you see thousands of wind generators near the road, be forewarned! Sure enough, within 5 minutes we saw a semi truck lose it and flip over on its site. 

Of course we took the next exit and pulled over for a few hours – whew!

Epilogue: turned out our front struts were getting flaky – replacing them made a huge difference to reduce those scary sways.  😅 

Last edited 1 year ago by California Travel Videos
Tommy Molnar
5 months ago

Good point about the wind generators, CTV. Makes sense but I never thought about it.

Spike
5 months ago

The time to be scared when seeing a lot of wind generators along the road is when none of them are moving and it’s very windy/gusty. If the wind generators have shut themselves down due to excessive wind forces, you can bet it’s going to be bad!

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

While we have luckily never been caught in the really REALLY bad wind on the highway, we were camped at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, NV one time when the biggest wind storm I’ve ever experienced came up. It blew so hard, all the porta-potties blew over (GASP!), the trailer they used to pile up garbage bags awaiting the trip to the dump also blew over, spreading the bags out to the desert, and we could actually hear the sand slapping our trailer. The only good thing was, our trailer was parked facing the oncoming wind. That helped considerably. Knocked out power, and thus, water as well because the water pump was inoperable. An exciting stay, actually.  😎 

Connie VH
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Wind out here in the Nevada desert can be horrendous. We’re just coming off another hellacious wind storm in LV ….not too much damage in town, that I know of. But it’s not just in town…it’s always way worse windy in the open desert. The wind just swirls around in the bowls of the open mountain valleys on any ordinary day (except in the dead heat of summer😣).

Stay safe out there on desert highways…. just pull over and wait.

mark
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

We were leaving Cottonwood, AZ to drive through Flagstaff and connect to I 40 eastbound. Weather report said 3o mph wind and rain turning to snow. 2-4 inches accumulation in Flagstaff.
It cost us a day – but we stayed put. Sunny and cold the next day – but no wind and the roads are clear.
Best lesson is to be sure your schedule has some flexibility.

Tommy Molnar
5 months ago
Reply to  mark

Same thing happened to us several years ago. We were in an RV park a bit west of Cottonwood, and we planned to go up to Flagstaff, then down I-40. We heard there was lots of snow ‘up there’ so we just sat it out for another day. Like you, the next day was sunny and COLD, but no snow on the road.

Bob P
1 year ago

I disagree with the adjustment of your mirrors so you can see the sides of your RV. You should by now know what color your RV is, you need to know what is beside your RV. Your mirrors should be adjusted so you are looking just to the outside of your RV so that a slight tilt of your head towards the mirror shows the side of the RV, with this adjustment you will see anything within 4-6 feet of the side and give you ample warning of danger before it hits you or you hit it.

Glen Cowgill
1 year ago

Wind, we drove across Nebraska and encountered wind so bad, even the semi’s were pulling over. we found a campground and hibernated for 2 days waiting for the wind to subside. Very interesting place to explore though. Sometimes you get trapped in a place that holds many interesting things to see and do. I love those small towns with a history.