It’s an awesome feeling to climb behind the wheel and take command of your RV out on the open road.
You’ve planned your route and stops carefully, packed the gear and loaded up the family. Now, the only thing left – is to drive! And after a few hours in the saddle out on the highway, you get a tap on the shoulder. “Hey, can I take the wheel?”
If that tap comes from your 17-year-old son, you might want to think in advance about how you’re going to answer. He’s a good kid, a decent driver and, so far, has kept the family car dent-free since getting his license a year ago. The Good Life is all about family and fun, right? So what would it hurt if junior took the wheel for a while and guided your rig to the next stop?
Before you hand over the keys, here are some things to keep in mind.
Driving a car and driving an RV are two entirely separate things. You know from experience that it requires full attention to be a safe RV driver on the road when people cut in front of you, tailgate or hide in your blind spot. Being a good driver in the family truckster is a lot easier. Cars are quicker, more maneuverable, and in some ways, more forgiving of mistakes than RVs. If you’ve only driven a car before, you know that it takes time, practice and experience to safely make the transition to pulling a big trailer.
Pulling even the easiest to haul trailer entirely changes the dynamics of driving. Steering corrections, lane changes and turns bring reactions that are unexpected if you are only used to driving a car. Even checking the mirrors or backup cameras frequently becomes part of staying alert and keeping everyone safe on the road. Listening for problems and reacting to changes in driving dynamics can also be the first signal of something amiss – and we all know you can’t beat experience when it comes to those sorts of things! We know one RVer who checked his side mirror only to see his trailer riding in the other lane! Luckily all ended well, but having the knowledge at moments like that to make a safe recovery is essential to safety. (By the way, he never forgot to check his hookup to make sure it was sound after that.)
Braking is another learned skill when trailering a rig. Getting an RV “going” isn’t usually the problem for beginners, but stopping is! It takes a while to get used to just how long it takes to slow down or stop, and it is certainly longer than it takes in a car that is one-quarter the weight. Estimating the time it takes to scrub speed and come to a safe stop is one of those skills that experienced drivers often struggle with as they get comfortable with their hauler. When you’re driving a large rig, you know that “easy does it” is often the best advice for safety. Distances can close pretty fast on the highway, and standing on the brakes in a panic move can lead to all kinds of trouble.
For more safety tips on driving with a trailer, check out this post.
So what do you think, should junior take the wheel? It’s your call in the end. Just know that you may make it look a lot easier to drive your RV than it would be for him to actually do it. A year or two of experience driving a car doesn’t provide everything he needs to know to drive an RV! Remember when he learned to drive? Maybe a few lessons to learn the realities of your rig would be a good idea before handing over the keys. If you are letting junior take the wheel, it’s always a good idea to have them get used to the handling and the feel of driving with a trailer in an empty parking lot. In a few months or years, your kids may indeed become great RV drivers! We’d all like to see another generation headed out on the road – safely.