Before driving RV, please engage brain


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Photo: base image,

Traveling by car to an appointment in the “big city” of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we noticed with some alarm as a commercial truck pulled out into the “suicide lane” to pass a vehicle. Since a commercial driver’s license is a pretty-much coveted possession of truck drivers, it seemed to us an unusually provocative move, taking a big risk needlessly. What on earth could have caused him or her to act with such blatant stupidity?

It didn’t take long to figure it out. We spotted, through a long line of cars, just what it was the trucker passed – a big Class A motorhome with a toad car behind him. Traffic was building up behind the RV, poking along at about 45 in a 55 mph zone, but we were assured this would surely end soon, as there was a long, wide, pullout about a mile ahead — which the RVer simply rolled on past.

Shortly thereafter we hit a 65 mph zone, and by this time, Mr. Pokey had somehow managed to slow his rig down to 42. A frustrated auto driver had enough — he whipped out around the motorhome, and came close enough to “head-on’ing” oncoming traffic that it pretty near caused heart palpitations in our car, just watching it. Others were emboldened to similar acts. Happily no more close calls ensued but, finally, we were two rigs behind the motorhomer. The pilot in the big rig just kept right on plugging along, never hitting more than about 53 miles per hour, and passing plenty of long and wide stretches of paved shoulder that would have made the perfect out.

As we were headed to an appointment, we watched with no little anxiety as the “ETA” clock on our GPS unit showed we had lost at least four minutes since our first encounter with the lumbering recreational limo. Finally, a two-lane portion of the highway opened up, and we were able to get around this bozo —along with about 15 more cars stacked up behind.

We’ve said it more than once over the years: When you get behind the wheel of a motorhome or a towing rig, you put yourself up as a representative of the rest of the RV community. Like it or not, to the average non-RVer, you’ve seen one RV, you’ve seen ’em all. Being RVers, we have empathy for fellow RVers who may struggle with climbing a grade, or dealing with twisty curves with a long, wide rig. But even with that empathy, I gotta confess, I still had some rather nasty thoughts about the lack of consideration of this character. I can only imagine the colorful language that must have been sent his way by others in the big parade we shared for some long miles. For heaven’s sake, DON’T NEEDLESSLY IMPEDE TRAFFIC.

[Editor: Another consideration — We’re not sure about all states, but in Washington state, RCW 46.61.427 provides: Slow-moving vehicle to pull off roadway. On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed. As used in this section a slow moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.]




30 Thoughts to “Before driving RV, please engage brain”

  1. Randy

    I agree with those that say, use pullouts when available. But there are times when they not available. I do try to pull to the right to give a driver extra room to pass, only after I determined it is safe to do so. I have followed class A and 18 wheelers from behind, and it pretty hard to see the road situations in front of them. Be safe

  2. Sherry Dawson

    Having lived and driven mostly in east coast states from Maine to Florida, I’ve never noticed a pull-out on a two lane road. What do you do when there is a long stretch of two-lane road with no place to pull out, turn off, or exit?

  3. CJG

    One of the most satisfying sights was being in a line on hwy. 1 north of LA behind a slow RV and having a cop join the line. The moment a car came behind him to make ten in the line he was out with lights and siren to pull over the RV. You could almost hear everyone cheering. Yes, I drive my RV less than the speed limit at times but I do think of those behind me and make sure they can pass safely or I pull over.

    1. Terry

      Being a considerate driver is important. Unfortunately, many others are on the road to make it as difficult as they can on others.

  4. Michael McCracken

    Russ and Tina,
    Good post. This RV driver had no excuse for his actions. One exception I might add. Several states have the pull off rule if five or more cars are behind you. I always try to obey this law, however in certain high traffic areas, you would be pulling over constantly. I had this situation in Colorado. Sorry to say if I were to get to my destination, I had to ignore this law. This certainly was not the situation in this case. This RVer needs to stay off the road.

  5. Loneoutdoorsman

    Slow RVs don’t cause wrecks–in a hurry idiots who pass when they shouldn’t cause wrecks. Ey don’t call these accidents because they are “on purposes” or wrecks.
    The RV mantra is “Dont let the guy behind you tell you how to drive.” Ey usually drive exactly the speed limit, especially in construction zones and National Parks. Ey pull over only when safe. Ey am looking for a bumper sticker that says “yes I CAN drive any slower” with a four letter word stuck in there somewhere.
    Burn Diesel and Keep on Truckin. Hi Diane
    The Loneoutdoorsman

    1. RV Staff

      Hey, Loneoutdoorsman,
      How’s it going? Do you feel like I’m looking over your shoulder as you’re writing? You’re doing fine — thanks. 😀
      Been to the Polebridge Mercantile lately? Whenever I see bearclaws in the bakery I think of you. 😉
      And yep … Keep on truckin’. —Diane at aka Mountain Mama

  6. Anonymous

    Most the time when you see a large RV whether it is a trailer or motor-home, people generally forget that the stopping distance for those large rigs are at least three times longer or more than a normal car. It is like you stopping on the railroad tracks and expecting the train to stop because you are there first. They can’t stop for several miles.

    Granted everyone should be considerate when in the large rigs and keep your eye out for situations where you can pull over safely to keep the traffic flowing. Sometimes not all slow lanes are marked so a large rig can safely pull over into it without having a problem getting there. This is where the general public should get involved with writing to their congressman to get signs put up on the highways showing where these lanes are in advance so the large rigs can get out of the way and not be a traffic nuisance.

    1. squeakytiki

      “…stopping distance for those large rigs are at least three times longer or more than a normal car”
      I picked up my motorhome in April of this year, and in the few short months I’ve been driving it I’ve developed a whole new respect for truck and bus drivers. I’m also very much considering getting a dash cam all because of how many close calls I’ve seen/experienced. It probably doesn’t help that I live in a major city known for it’s traffic issues to begin with.

  7. AKtravler

    Making excuses for the slow driver, you overlook the dangers. If everyone is going over the speed limit and a car is trying to drive at a slower pace, it can be passed, generally safely. But a motorhome with a toad or a fifthwheel cannot be passed as easily or as safely especially on windy roads. We drive usually up there with the traffic but because we are 50′ plus…. if it appears we have someone behind us that is wanting to pass we pull over. The law in Alaska is 5 vehicle behind you pull over.

    1. RV Staff

      That’s the law in Washington, as well, AKtravler. I’m sure it’s the same or similar in most, if not all, of the states. Thanks for your input. —Diane at

      1. Cel

        That’s the law in California, also. And it should be obeyed.

    2. Terry

      The Rules of the Road direct the driver to determine safety, not the people around you.

  8. James Fulton

    Although a RV operator is not a profession commercial truck drivers, the RV operator must use common sense in operating his or her vehicle. Common sense includes, not limited to looking in the rear view mirrors to monitor traffic behind the RV, If there are more than 4 vehicles behind the RV, no matter the speed it is going, the RV operator should pull off to the right, where it is safe to do so, and allow the faster traffic to pass. Also, by using common sense the RV operator should move over in area where there are lanes for such action, usually on inclines on highways built on hills and mountains. A few bad commercial drivers reflect negative opinion on all truck drivers, and equally, bad RV drivers, usually not using common sense, reflect negative opinion on all RV operators.

    1. Terry

      CA requires resident RV drivers 40ft & greater to hold a CDL, I recently heard.
      As an FYI, not all commercial big rigs require the driver to have a CDL, farm workers being a huge danger driving on public highways 150-200 miles from the ‘farm’ but only holding a regular DL which in some states (WA & CA) can be passed in a foreign language, no ability to read, comprehend English road signage required but driving full semi’s

  9. George

    I’m glad you used the term “commercial driver” and not “professional driver” as there are very few of these drivers that drive in a professional manner. They would have surely failed their driver’s test and they should be setting the example. As well, if the guy behind me in his little import had spent an extra $10 on a few more horsepower he could have easily sped past me. Too much impatience. Leave 5 minutes earlier on your trip.

  10. Wolfe

    I’ll second everything Emsminger said above… I’m not going to operate my vehicle unsafely for your benefit if I’m already at speedlimit.

    MY pet peeve in this area is all the idiots who respond to my right-directional by passing on the right and then laying on their horn to complain I didn’t get out of their way… thus occupying the exact “climb lane” I’d need in order to let speeders pass!

    When my heavy rig accumulates a long tail, i perform a “cop loop” (using exit/entrance as a reverse passing lane) at an uphill exit… Get off and gravity slows the rig down to a stop saving brakes, cross the crossroad and re-enter with the downhill helping accelerate… magically clearing the traffic from your bumper.

    1. Terry

      Speed limit vs traffic speed are also big issues…many times jerk speedsters are creating dangerous situations despite many drivers already driving at the legal limit.

  11. Mr. Fuddled

    I’ve actually been in situations where I was the “slowpoke”. So, to play devil’ s advocate, I would like to suggest that perhaps the driver was maintaining what he/she considered to be his safe speed. The speed that would give him the time and distance needed to react and negotiate his rig safely. Also, roadside pullouts are often difficult to see far enough ahead to slow an RV down and pull in, especially if they are not marked ahead of time.
    I understand human nature and being irritated when someone is between me and where I want to go. But I also appreciate and respect a driver who focuses on staying in his safety zone.

    1. Roy Ellithorpe

      If his/her safety/comfort zone is noticeably less than the speed limit then obviously they are not qualified to be driving that rig on that road.

      1. Steven Scheinin

        It is a speed limit, not mandatory speed.

        1. Terry

          Exactly. There’s a minimum speed posted, fir a reason! But safety and travel conditions override posted speeds. And, gas usage is horrid at 60 + mph . I get 25% better mileage by going 55 mph on interstates and US highways. Not everyone desires to use the roads as a speedway, either, but rather to enjoy the scenery and the drive.

          1. Tommy Molnar

            I rarely see a “minimum” speed posted, at least out here in NV or UT. I too travel between 55 and 60 mph because it makes a big difference in fuel mileage. Another issue is, if there IS a pullout, it has to be one that doesn’t require I lock my brakes up just to stop in it. I’ll wait until the pullout is big enough to safely PULL OUT!

      2. Jann

        And sometimes, depending on conditions, the speed limit may not be safe. However, people seemed to have left their common sense at home.

  12. Lee Ensminger

    I agree, people should be more considerate. However, we’ve fostered a “Me, me, me, nobody matters but me!” attitude in our society as a result of some fine permissive parenting over the last several decades, so it’s hard to understand why people are surprised at this behavior. I drive a Class A motorhome, and I will try to do the polite thing if I see I’m holding people up due to twists and turns in the road, or just generally crappy pavement that many seem willing to slam their SUVs through but are killer for a heavy motorhome. I have two exceptions, though-when I’m making my best speed and the opportunities to pull over are concealed by a curve or a rise in the road so that they can’t be seen ahead of time, I am not standing on the brakes and making an unsafe slide off the road to accommodate you. The other is in regard to this statement:
    “a slow moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.”
    All I owe you is the speed limit. If the speed limit is 55 and I’m going 55, get used to it. Many people think it’s their God-given right to drive 20-25 mph over the posted speed limit. That’s just not true.

    1. Rusty Austin

      “However, we’ve fostered a “Me, me, me, nobody matters but me!” attitude in our society as a result of some fine permissive parenting over the last several decades, so it’s hard to understand why people are surprised at this behavior. ” I’m sure the ancient Sumerians had this exact same thing to say about their unruly youngsters…judge not lest ye be judged…

      1. Jim M

        “…judge not lest ye be judged…” Give me a break, Mr. Emsinger was spot on.

    2. Jann

      That is very well said. It is unfortunate these days that you now have to worry about road rage. If people don’t get their way, they will try to either run you off the road or shoot you. Its a sign of the times and the roads are not all that safe anymore.

    3. Lori Singels

      Finally, someone says something that counters all those speeders who take life and property in their hands by traveling 10-20 or more MPH over the posted speed limit. In addition, many so-called pull-outs are not made for an RV towing a car which can easily be 60+ feet long. Try to fit that puppy into a 100 foot pullout when you’re traveling 55 mph without killing yourself and others. Over the past 25 years there’s really been a deterioration of drivers respecting the posted speed limits everywhere I go. Why post those limits if you’re not going to enforce them or respect them.? Someone sometime determined that that’s the safe speed for that location.

  13. Jeannie

    I wish I had a dollar for every time I got stuck behind some bozo in a Class A that refused to use the pull outs. I won’t drive on US 89A between Kanab and the Marble Canyon bridge because every time I’ve driven it (it is a pretty drive), there were one or two inconsiderate jerks in Class As poking along and refusing to use one of the frequent pull outs, stacking up a dozen or more vehicles behind them. It’s no small wonder so many people hate RVs.

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