By Nanci Dixon
A couple of weeks 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.
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!
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!