Common Sense Driving Tips

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Now, let me share with you a few common-sense driving tips that you should already be aware of and already use regularly—but most of us can develop sloppy driving habits.

Pay Heed to Yellow Caution Signs. Many of us have discovered over the years that the yellow caution signs telling us to slow down for a curve and recommending a safe speed tend to be very much on the slow side. If the sign indicates 45, we usually sail around the curve at 55 in the family car without any problems. But, please be very aware that the same is not true with your motorhome or fifth wheel. When you are driving your RV on the road, the yellow caution signs are telling you the maximum speed that is safe for negotiating the curve ahead. Learn to slow down and safely round the curve at the stated speed. Keeping all four or six wheels on the ground while going around a curve keeps your co-pilot and navigator from having an early heart attack.

Use Your Turn Signals. Nothing is more frustrating (at least to me) than to have a motorist suddenly change lanes in front of me or make a sharp turn into a driveway or side street without using his/her turn signals ahead of time. In the same vane, is the motorist who does use his/her turn signals but they only have a chance to blink once before the car makes a sudden turn.

Always get in the habit of using your turn signals—and do so well ahead of time to let other motorists know your intention. Especially in a motorhome where other drivers are continuously cutting in front of you or trying to dart around you, using your turn signals all the time and well ahead of any maneuver can keep your fiberglass sides in one piece instead of shattering during an unexpected collision.

Use Your Mirrors. After activating your turn signals, pay almost constant attention to your mirrors to be sure that the lane is clear before even starting to move over. Be ever alert for that motorist who suddenly darts from behind you to beside you—just as you are changing lanes.

The small convex mirrors at the bottom of your large side mirrors can be especially helpful in detecting even a small car that is right beside you but cannot be seen in your regular mirrors.

If you are a relative RV “newbie” and tend to swing wide on right-hand turns, be especially alert for that small car that doesn’t see or doesn’t pay attention to your turn signals and tries to sneak by you on the right-hand side.

The same advice of checking your mirrors more than once before you change lanes in heavy traffic is also of utmost importance. It is so easy for cars to change lanes and get along side of you without you really being aware of them. Get in the habit of checking both your large side mirrors and always check and recheck your small convex side mirrors. You will be amazed at the number of times that these little mirrors will keep you from changing lanes with a car right beside you.

Travel in Middle of the Traffic Lane. If you happen to pay much heed to the RVs in front of you, you may have noticed that most of them seem to hug the right side of the road. Driving an RV is much different than driving a car, and many RVers do not really know where the right side of their rig is really located relative to the side of the road. If you glance out your right side mirror and cannot see the white strip that usually delineates the side of the lane, you are driving too far to the right.

Some folks (such as me) sight from the driving position past the bottom of the center windshield post to the right side strip. With a little practice they can readily tell where they are in the travel lane. Other folks keep their accelerator foot in line with the usual trail of oil that accumulates in the center of the travel lanes.

Until you become accustomed to knowing where your rig is positioned, glance frequently at your right-side mirror and keep checking. Once you have a good grasp on where the left and right sides of your rig are in the traffic lane, the narrow construction zones with the cement barriers will seem much less menacing, and your rear end won’t pucker as much when driving through these areas.

Don’t Travel in Fast Lane. RVers should never travel in the fast lane, unless you are passing a slower moving truck. Pass the truck and then pull back into the slow lane. Please, don’t stay out in the fast lane and impede the many cars that always want to whiz down the road—often at speeds well above the posted speed limit.

When you are climbing a hill that has a separate truck lane for slow-moving vehicles, pull over into that lane and use it.

Don’t Convoy. Please don’t get in the habit of convoying—where you are following so closely to the truck or other RV in front of you that a car trying to pass you has no place to pull back in after he passes your rig.

Always leave at least several truck lengths in front of your rig—more space than you think is necessary.

Practice On-The-Road Courtesy. Most of you have probably heard the term Road Courtesy, but think of it as only something that truckers practice. Remember to treat your RV just like a truck. Truckers and RVers must coexist on the road. To many truckers, RVers are a menace, and sometimes not too well tolerated—but that is because far too many RVers don’t follow the rules of the road or practice road courtesy.

Know and Use Headlight Signals. First, know and use the daylight headlight signals that truckers use to help each other when passing. After a truck has passed you and is ready to pull back into your lane, wait until his trailer(s) have cleared the front of your rig with a safe amount of clearance. Then, when the trucker signals his intention to pull back into your lane, briefly turn on your headlights until the trucker starts to change lanes, and then turn your headlights back off.

Many truckers have just as much difficulty in knowing where the back end of their rig is, and they help each other to know when it is safe to pull back over. Oftentimes the trucker will say “thanks” by blinking his running lights at you a couple of times. However, more and more these days, I find that truckers pay no attention to most RVers and seldom say “thanks” by blinking their lights. Part of the problem may be that so many RVs these days have daytime running lights (headlights that stay on whenever the engine is running) that many truckers can easily get confused.

Give Truckers a Free Lane to Enter the Highway. Secondly, when you see a trucker about to enter the highway beside you or slightly in front of you, don’t force him to slow down until you get past him. Instead, if the next lane is open, change lanes to let the trucker have the entire slow lane to merge and accelerate into the traffic stream. After you have passed him (since you are usually going at a much faster speed), simply pull back over into the slow lane and continue your journey.

Don’t Blast Roadside Vehicles With Your Wind Wake. Next, don’t blast vehicles parked on the side of the road with your wind wake. Always keep your eyes “down the road” and not right in front of you. When you see a car or truck parked beside the road ahead of you, change lanes (if you can safely do so) and pass the car or truck with an open lane between you and the other vehicle. This way, your very strong wind wake is not going to buffet the other vehicle with such a vengeance. Have you ever noticed how much buffeting you get when only a car passes you when you are on the side of the road? Please realize that your RV wind wake is much more turbulent and strong. Practice being courteous and swing wide whenever you can.

Don’t Be a Road Hog. On two-lane roads, especially, RVers tend to hog the road—with a line of 5 or 10 cars stuck behind them, and all wanting to go a bit faster. On many roads, finding a safe place to pull over and let the accumulated cars pass you is difficult. However, whenever you have a few cars behind you, be looking ahead for a wide spot, a turn out, or even a wide shoulder where you can pull over (and, yes, oftentimes you have come to a complete stop) to let the cars go past your slower moving RV. On a very hilly and windy road, this can be a recurring inconvenience, but be patient and let the others cars get around you. Please don’t give RVers a worse rap than they already have. Take your time, be patient, and let the other cars proceed at their pace— not yours.

Please be aware that many states have laws requiring that you pull over and let the backed-up traffic get past you. In some states the law says only three cars, and in some other states, the law says five cars. But don’t go by numbers—if even one car is following you on a windy road, find a spot to pull over and let him pass. Some will say thanks with a “beep beep” on their horn, while many others will simply step on the gas and fly down the road.

Night-Time Road Courtesy. Some of you may be aware of night-time road courtesy, but many of you probably have the wrong idea of the right thing to do. When a trucker passes you and his trailer has cleared your rig far enough to be safe, the proper way to signal to him that he can pull back over is to turn off your headlights (but not your parking lights) for just a second or two. The trucker can see your intention without being blinded by your high beams in his mirrors.

Yes, I know that you see the other way of signaling (high beams) now and then, but the serious truckers much prefer to see a moment of darkness rather than a moment of blinding light.

Another element of night-time courtesy is not leaving your lights on high beam, regardless of whether the other driver is headed toward you or is headed in the same direction as you are traveling. Many people tend to obey this courtesy only when the other vehicle is headed toward them and can flash his high beams to show his irritation at your thoughtlessness. But the same rule holds true for cars that are ahead of you and going the same direction. Your high beams shine back from his rear mirror directly into his eyes, and is extremely irritating. Your high beam headlights can travel much farther than you think and still be a nuisance to the driver in front of you. Generally, if you can see either headlights or taillights from a car out in front of you, turn off your high beams.

If someone is headed toward you and flashes his high beams—thinking that your lights are on high beam, don’t retaliate by flashing your high beams. Instead, just turn off |your headlights for a second or two and then turn them back on. The other driver gets the message, and isn’t blinded by your high beam retort.

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