Driving Safety in a Motorhome

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Joined
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Midlothian, VA
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Newmar
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2017 Chevy Colorado
In reaction and response to this thread I'd like to offer my thoughts on driving safely in a motorhome and I invite others to offer your stories and tips for others to learn from. I've made mistakes, I've been lucky, I'm not ashamed to share. The speculation from what I can gather from the various posts and related news articles from the Newmar Owners Group Facebook group is the driver may have veered off the pavement and tried to recover.

First off distracted driving. Yes, I have picked up and viewed my cell phone at times while driving. It is amazing how fast in a motorhome vs. a car you can get into trouble. I remember one time I checked my phone and heard a whack, it was a branch hitting the right side of my coach, not sure if I could have seen it sticking out into the road (2 lane country road), fortunately only the awning support beam (vertical) otherwise I could have and should have had a nice groove down the side of my coach. This was from being distracted. I checked my phone at times enroute to Myrtle Beach SC and believe it or not I missed signs that said road closed ahead, THREE TIMES and arrived at a barricade having to unhook and turn-around on a narrow road. I'm sharing my mistakes for others to learn from. There have been other times where I've picked up that phone to the phone now I will not touch it while driving! I've never had an issue in my car, not that it's right, and as an A-10 Pilot I know to hold the device up so I can see out the window while looking at the device, admittedly laws make us look at our phones down vs. this position which is a bad side effect of the law. People will look at their phones, it's safer in my opinion to let them hold them up vs. hiding it. We all see this while driving, stop lights, etc. etc. and etc. it's a terrible problem today for all of us.

The other thing I notice and really scares me as I'm not sure others that may be less capable or have slower reaction times or really shouldn't be driving these Class A motorhomes is that if you don't keep on top of the steering you can lose control in an instant. I've found myself in pucker factor times numerous times where I know to "keep steering" to keep control, this is not an overspeed situation, it's just a matter of driving these rigs that you have to fight and work to maintain control at all times. This is why we are exhausted after limited travel distances and most of us limit to 4-6 hour legs. High concentration is required at all times both from monitoring other traffic, highway merges are super high risk when the oncoming vehicles think they have the right of way, and staying on the pavement. It is NOT easy driving these rigs and you can get into trouble in an instant.

When I drive my car I turn my phone over so I cannot see notifications, due to wireless charging in my Ventana this is not usually the case but I have been stung and shocked enough times I know not to touch the phone. Be proactive in avoiding distractions.

Another recent situation of mine is a new puppy. Too small to harness, too big for the airline carrier, what do I do and she can be a big time distraction as she's in piranha mode right now at 3 months of age. This last leg I finally realize the crate I bought fits under the dinette so I put the dinette chairs on the bed and her crate under the dinette and that's how we travel now giving me huge peace of mind and probably her as well in her den as she is crate trained. Animals running loose, not harnessed or contained can also be a huge safety hazard. We see pictures of animals on the dash, etc. It's all cute until one causes a problem with driver safety.

When we had safety incidents in the Air Force we typically stood down and studied them and refreshed pilots on safety learning from past events. We just had a motorhome incident, let's all take a moment to stand down mentally and think safety. Share your tips, stories, lessons learned, etc. It's not always "the phone" as driving these rigs is simply complex and takes skill and attention.

Be careful and be alert!
 
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I will add that there is a reason some coaches put the parking brake on the passenger side such as in my coach. It appears and is possible in the Ventana Down thread that the driver suffered a cardiac event. If you are fortunate to have a passenger be sure to discuss how something like this would be handled. Just activating the parking brake is not going to be a safe event and can still end up terrible but it's something to discuss as when I've mentioned concern of the position of the parking brake the reason of passenger access comes up.
 
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Excellent points, @Neal. I posted the following earlier on the other thread, but it might be more appropriate here.

This is something us older RVers need to think about; what to do if the driver has a sudden health emergency. Though we know we can never be fully prepared for an event like this, LadyDi and I have discussed this possibility and have a procedure in place to help deal with it. Nothing elaborate, just a basic gain control and get the coach stopped procedure,

Since we use cruise control quite a bit, just understanding how to turn it off quickly is a good place to start. And, once under control and pulled off the roadway, immediately activate the parking brake. Once that is done, we will start dealing with the actual medical emergency; 911, CPR, etc.
Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a qualified co-driver aboard and driving solo poses some significant challenges. I am fortunate to have LadyDi alongside me (both as a co-driver and life partner), either driving or acting as co-pilot/navigator. We have a strict division of responsibilities policy; the driver is responsible for situational awareness and keeping the coach on the road in a safe manner ("between the ditches" as a friend says) and the co-pilot has custody of ALL communications devices and is responsible for navigation and keeping the pilot informed of potential hazards. We like the idea of both of us being in "situational awareness mode."

We do travel with two furry passengers. Ours are relatively small Miniature Schnauzers, but their riding situation could be applied to larger pets as well. Both dogs ride in padded foam "boxes" seat-belted to the couch and are harnessed in. They cannot get out and wander around which would be really unsafe. We make it a point to stop every couple of hours for a brief walk, "pee break," water break and treats. If appropriate, we stop at their meal times, though we are usually ready to stop for the night by that time.

As for driving times, with two drivers aboard, we feel comfortable with a pair of four-hour driving shifts, but usually limit our daily travel to 6-7 hours maximum. That leaves both of us feeling comfortable rather than wrung out.

So many other things to think about and I'm looking forward to hearing about what others are doing in this regard.

TJ
 
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12 years ago, I was involved in a rollover accident in my Mini Cooper. Rush hour on a Friday afternoon on I-30 between Fort Worth and Dallas. Traveling in the far left lane at highway speeds. Without warning, the car immediately to my right, swerved quickly into me; I swerved left, onto the shoulder, but the highway was under construction at the time, and I was faced with an orange barrel and a concrete barricade dead ahead. I had to swerve back to the right to avoid a head on collision with a stationary object. At that point, physics took over...I crossed all the lanes of I-30, and the second my right front tire left the pavement, and hit the grass, the Mini began flipping corner to corner. Witnesses reported that I flipped at least 4 complete rotations. I cleared the 6’ fence at Six Flags over Texas, and the Mini landed on her feet. I opened the door and stepped out. Apart from bruising from the seatbelt and airbags, and a big scuff on the back of my hand, I was fine. Of course, the Mini was totaled, and it was only 3 months old. I went back and bought the same exact car; firmly convinced that the Mini saved my life.

My point in this story is this. When a wheel leaves the pavement, it becomes what’s called a “tripping hazard”. I am keenly aware of keeping all my wheels on the pavement, as I never want to experience this scenario again. It would be even worse in a motorhome, as there are no airbags, and a lot more weight to try and control.

CB455D8E-5882-445A-9E79-ED16F5A058DE.jpeg
 
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I am a firm believer that I will be better off hitting something (car, road sign or other object) rather than leave the pavement trying to avoid something.

Having driven many miles in MH sitting up high I am amazed observing people looking or texting on cell phones at the most inappropriate times, like merging onto highway. It has broken any habit I may of had with my cell phone while driving.

DW and I should discuss more scenarios and have a plan for those. We have discussed some but not nearly enough.
 
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Both dogs ride in padded foam "boxes" seat-belted to the couch and are harnessed in. They cannot get out and wander around which would be really unsafe.
if you get a chance to post a picture or a link where I could get one would be appreciated. I need something like that.
 
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if you get a chance to post a picture or a link where I could get one would be appreciated. I need something like that.
This is what our dogs ride in:


The harness is sold separately:


They are not inexpensive, but are well made and keep "our girls" safe and comfortable. There are probably other products and sellers, but that is where the ones we use came from.

I don't have a photo handy of our "girls" in their padded boxes, but suffice to say that they appear to be quite at ease riding in them. And, we are comfortable knowing that in the event of a sudden stop, they will not flying around loose.

TJ
 
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In MH I often leave the phone on the charger on dinette seat. It is totally out of reach. I often wear a bluetooth headset which I can answer by voice.
 
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Has anyone put on the parking brake while driving to experience it? I have not and someone asked me if the salesman did it when I was test driving a Ventana before purchasing. Apparently it’s something worth trying, not sure.
 
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Has anyone put on the parking brake while driving to experience it? I have not and someone asked me if the salesman did it when I was test driving a Ventana before purchasing. Apparently it’s something worth trying, not sure.
Have you seen those long skid marks on the highway that frequently go off into the weeds? That's what happens when a semi trailer loses its air and the brakes activate...similar to pulling out the yellow knob in our coaches. What more do you need to know? :ROFLMAO:

TJ
 
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On the subject of safe driving I have an observation. We just spent three days driving from Texas to Florida. Dense fog every morning and one day with fog & rain all day. My observation is there were many cars with headlights on but no tail lights on driving in the foggy conditions. I suspect this is due to the use of the "auto on" light function in the vehicles. My guess is the drivers figure their lights are set to come on automatically so good to go. However in the foggy conditions it apparently is/was light enough that the "driving lights" are on but the auto on feature is not turning the lights on, thus no taillights.. Sooooo my suggestion is if it's foggy turn your lights on manually vs relying on the auto on function.
 

Jim

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Great thread. And I didn't know you piloted an A-10, wow.
 
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Has anyone put on the parking brake while driving to experience it? I have not and someone asked me if the salesman did it when I was test driving a Ventana before purchasing. Apparently it’s something worth trying, not sure.
When we test drove a new Tiffin RED, the salesperson had me pull the airbrake after warning my wife and I to hold on tightly. We were in the large parking lot at the Hershey show, that they had set up for test drives. We were probably going about 10 mph, definitely less than 15. The coach instantly stopped. I was pretty surprised. I remember him saying that if we pulled the brake at any speed, all wheels would lock and we would be just skidding to a stop. I remember it was pretty jarring.
 
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One of the greatest differences I've noted between driving my coach and driving my cars is the speed at which you find yourself somewhere you don't want to be. Neil alluded to it in his post. It takes a fraction of a second to look up or around and utter those famous words, "Oh sh**". I LOVE driving my coach, but I can't say I find it relaxing. It demands more alertness and situational awareness than anything I've ever driven. At the end of the day's travel, I'm usually well ready for a beer, burger, and bed.
 
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Joined
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WA, MT or somewhere else!
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2014 Honda CR-V
One of the greatest differences I've noted between driving my coach and driving my cars is the speed at which you find yourself somewhere you don't want to be. Neil alluded to it in his post. It takes a fraction of a second to look up or around and utter those famous words, "Oh sh**". I LOVE driving my coach, but I can't say I find it relaxing. It demands more alertness and situational awareness than anything I've ever driven. At the end of the day's travel, I'm usually well ready for a beer, burger, and bed.
Exactly! Driving a 20-ton beast requires a lot of concentration and, at the end of the day, I'm ready for a good rest. That's why we limit our drive time to 8 hours or less...combined seat time. I'm fortunate to have a fully qualified co-driver aboard and we support each other's driving from the "second seat." A pair of 2-hour driving shifts each per day is plenty for us.

TJ
 
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