By Ray Burr, loveyourrv.com
The right lane is your friend. There are many advantages to staying in the far right lane: it’s where the slower traffic like your RV is expected to be; you can see better behind you using the driver’s side mirror; in an emergency the shoulder is right there for a pull-over.
Learn to anticipate: Driving a heavy rig is a disadvantage when braking and accelerating. Most other drivers are unaware of our limitations and will perform the most stupid maneuvers with blissful ignorance. RV drivers need to constantly anticipate the traffic all around to take action as soon as possible. Leave a fair distance in front of the rig for braking, but keep on the lookout for those who will use that space for a quick darting maneuver. Anticipate traffic slowdowns by keeping an eye out far ahead and watch for brake lights. If you see a bunch light up, expect to be needing to brake soon yourself.
Watch the truckers: Truckers often have some of the best and most experience on the Interstate. It’s handy in large cities to notice which lanes the bulk of the truck traffic is taking when navigating their way through. Having driven through many times, they usually know what is the best lane to be in to move through in the safest and most efficient manner. If you have a CB radio, listen to the truckers chatter and pick up information on the road ahead. If there is an accident or construction, they relay it back to other truckers on the CB channels.
Watch your rear: Take into account that there may be someone right behind you. With the length of your RV, the blind spot behind can be fairly large and it’s easy for a car to hide back there. Many new RVs are coming equipped with rear cameras, which is great — but if you don’t have one, always remember that at anytime someone may dart out from behind you.
Make slow, deliberate movements: Have your turn signal on well in advance and move over slowly. This gives the other drivers a chance to correct themselves if they are darting out from behind you or coming upon you at a high rate of speed. Brake well in advance and slowly, giving tailgaters a chance to see you’re slowing down.
Plot your course, especially when navigating through large metropolitan areas. Know your turns, the exit numbers, and which lane is best to be in well before you get there. The worst thing to do is try and force yourself across several lanes of traffic to get to an exit. Have a look at the roadway from a satellite view. We are able to use our iPad to see a bird’s eye view of the highway and know ahead of time what the road pattern is for exits, and from that information we know the best lane to be in. This comes in real handy when there is a left-hand lane exit versus the standard right-hand variety.
Be well rested: Interstates are a demanding environment for RVers. You need to have all your wits about you and it takes sustained concentration to make your travels safe. It’s just not worth saving time if you’re starting to get tired. Take a break! It may save your or another’s life. Bad things always seem to happen when you’re tired and not paying full attention. This is why they have those things called Rest Stops.
Watch for debris: A common threat is pieces of tires from blowouts on the big rigs. Another is stuff like chairs and mattresses which have fallen off vehicles. This is another reason it pays to be always anticipating and scanning far ahead. It’s also another good reason to travel in the right lane next to the shoulder because then you have somewhere to go if you quickly need to avoid an object.
Avoid bad weather: Poor weather while traveling increases your risks dramatically. Why push through during a driving rainstorm, snow, ice or fog when you can pull over and wait it out? When something goes wrong on an Interstate during poor weather, it usually is bad.
Have a well-maintained rig: Rig failures on the Interstate have consequences that magnify. A blowout on a two-lane rural road is a lot less concerning than on a packed eight-lane Interstate. Anything you can do to decrease the likelihood of mechanical failure is worth it. Make sure your tires are in excellent shape and properly inflated and that the lug nuts are tight. Make sure your brakes are in perfect shape. It’s also extremely important that all signal and marker lights are functioning properly.