Whether you tow it or drive it, most RVs are pretty big. When combined with a tow car, you may actually create a new vehicle 4–5 times longer than a “normal” passenger car or truck. Many RVers get in that big RV and, because they have a gazillion miles of “other” driving experience, assume they know how to handle it. But how could they know? The only previous experience even close to driving a big motorhome is driving a school or “city” bus—but even they don’t tow cars. Granted, semi-trucks are hinged in the middle—but motorhomes are not.
Sandy and I share driving and trade drivers every 1.5 hours or so. This started with the STRONG suggestion from my doctor that I needed to walk a bit (5 minutes or so) every 1.5 hours (or so). I was taking a special medication for a bout with prostate cancer and he said this drug increased the likelihood of stroke if I sat on my butt for hours at a time. Hey, I’m easy to convince.
That was Spring 2003, and we simply got in the habit of trading drivers and still do. Our joke is that when we trade, Sandy ends up with the awful roads and I get the good ones. Hey, whatever works!
A Bit of Background
Late 2002, after a long non-RV spell, we bought a 39-foot diesel pusher. We had never owned or driven a diesel or a coach that big. This was new stuff to us, we had money invested, and did not want to scratch our new motorhome.
I found (at the time) Dick Reed’s RV Driving School online and signed us both up. We took the two-day instruction and it was wonderful—and valuable. We learned a lot, period. We have also attended Barney Alexander’s driving course (a freebie) at Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Seffner, Florida (east of Tampa). If you get close to there, do it. You learn a lot and actually drive! There are four good reasons for getting professional instruction…
- Your spouse may not be the person who should teach you to drive the big rig.
- An instructor will point out what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right!… a great confidence builder.
- You will learn correct and safe driving techniques much faster and easier.
- Your instructor won’t yell at you.
[Sidebar: The RV Driving School offers instruction at several locations nationwide. Call 530-878-0111 for information or visit their website at http://www.rvschool.com ]
It’s Time to Exercise
I customized several parking-lot driving exercises specifically for us to determine and then help us to learn the limitations and extreme maneuverability of our coach. We discovered these exercises were applicable to any RV and were asked to share this information. The result was the total first section of my book (with Robert Lowe), “All the Stuff You Need to Know About RVing.”
After that, we developed our driving seminars. Sandy and I have presented “So,Can I Really Drive an RV?,” “Hand Signals for Backing an RV,” and other topics at rallies, shows, events, and even some impromptu RV gatherings nationwide.
Competence and Confidence
In our seminars, Sandy tells everyone that once you learn a skill, you will have a level of competence. But to maintain that competence, you must practice… the only way to gain confidence is to practice the skill. Is there a higher level of anxiety when driving a big RV? Sure there is. You can’t just coast along half-paying attention like most of us do in our cars. So, how do you practice driving? How do you reduce that anxiety? You gain that confidence by getting behind the wheel and actually driving. The easy, natural way is to trade drivers regularly. That is the secret to gaining competence and maintaining confidence.
Men, more than women, want to do all the driving. Sandy tells men that their tendency to never relinquish the steering wheel is likely caused by “testosterone glue”—their fingers are forever stuck to the steering wheel!
My statement to the seminar men is this… “If I’m driving and something happens to me, maybe/hopefully I can get the coach stopped. But then, I want an expert, experienced, skillful driver that can get me to the nearest medical facility in the fastest, safest method possible! I certainly don’t want to depend on an amateur trying to remember how to start the engine at that point!”
But… we regularly hear from women that refuse to drive the RV. Interestingly, we frequently hear from many non-driving spouses that in an emergency, they could drive the RV “enough” to take care of any problems. Our response to that is… “Bull!”
For those RVers out there who, in any emergency, assume they would just pull the RV off the road, I can assure you there are many, many places in this great nation where you cannot pull a big rig off the road—it may sink or roll over. For those who assume they would use their cell phones to call for help, I can also assure you there are many, many places in this great nation where your phone will not work. The point is…you may be forced to drive some distance in less than peak conditions (on narrow roads or city streets in dense traffic among others) due to a medical emergency with their spouse.
If there was never going to be an emergency, this article would be useless. But look around—the average age of RVers we see are prime for that sit-on-your-butt-enhanced-stroke potential.
Solve the Problem
The stroke-potential problem is instantly and significantly reduced by simply trading drivers. Plus, many other problems go away if both spouses become competent and confident drivers. By sharing the driving, anxiety levels are lower, you will arrive less tired, can watch out for each other, both gain driving competence, and you will easily achieve a higher level of confidence. Therefore, the likelihood of scratching your RV is reduced. We want you to be safe, enjoy the trip, and have fun. Sharing the driving is one way to enhance your RVing experience. Since you don’t know what you don’t know, why not try it.