When you decided to get an RV, you no doubt imagined driving on the long, open highways of America, staying at beautiful campsites, and having your own, personal space while on the road. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in RVing.
However, while most of your RV time will likely be spent on freeways or at campsites, you will have to drive in cities. That includes when you leave or return to home, and stopping in various cities and other urban areas during your trip to get gas, groceries, or to sit down and eat at a restaurant.
The thing is, RVs are big vehicles and driving in the city takes practice. The following advice should help you get started.
The most difficult part of driving an RV in the city is turning. Let’s start with lane shifting, and advance from there.
When positioning side mirrors, most drivers set them up so that they can see into the lanes on either side, as well as part of the vehicle. That’s a mistake. You don’t need to be able to see the side of your vehicle, just what’s in the lane next to you. In fact, this is the cause of blind spots in average sized cars.
Adjust the left window so that you can see down the lane on your left. If you move your head to the left, you should be able to see part of the side of your vehicle, but if you’re sitting in your normal driving position, you shouldn’t see it. Adjust the right side mirror so that you can see the right lane, and so that if you move your head to the right, you can see part of the right side of your vehicle. Since RVs are long, you will probably have blind spots, but this will reduce them significantly.
Always signal before you shift lanes, and give other drivers enough time to see that you are signaling. Look carefully in the appropriate side mirror before moving into the next lane, and look through your windows, as best you can, to make sure the lane is clear.
When turning, remember to signal well in advance, too. Right turns are the trickiest, because we drive on the right side of the road, meaning you will often have to make a right turn directly at a corner. In order to turn safely, you will need to create extra room on the right, for the back of the rig to swing out enough.
To do this, first, ease toward the left lane. You may need to go into it slightly. Then, turn right. That will get the back of the trailer to move left as well, and you can avoid having it drive up onto the sidewalk or otherwise move onto the edge of the road.
There are two things to be aware of here. First, when you start moving toward the left lane, some other drivers will mistakenly think you’re turning left and will start moving to your right. That’s why you signal well ahead of time, to minimize this possibility. You will also want to really watch that lane to make sure you can complete your turn.
Second, make sure you know where your front wheels are located in relation to the driver’s seat. We’re used to front wheels being in front of us when driving. There’s a strong chance that in your RV, they’re behind you, and that will change the turn. You will want to drive into the intersection a bit further than you’re used to when turning either right or left.
Parking can be tough in an RV, unless you find a parking lot with a nice big area for large vehicles. If you have a passenger who can help you park by signaling to you from outside the RV, that usually works best. If not, once you find a large enough spot to park in, get out of your RV and look around so that you know what’s there and can safely park.
Where to Drive
When possible, stick to wide roads when driving in a city. Avoid narrow roads and alleyways, especially in areas you don’t know. If necessary, park in a large lot and then walk around the area to get an idea of how to navigate it safely.
Since driving an RV in the city is more difficult than driving smaller vehicles, and since you will have to deal with the impatience of other drivers, you’ll need to be mentally prepared for a stressful experience.
Exercise patience. Remember that most of the drivers around you probably don’t know the difficulties of driving an RV. When you remind yourself to be patient, it’s easier to focus on the task of driving, turning, and parking safely.
The more you travel in your RV, the better you’ll get at driving it, both on the open road and in urban areas. Enjoy your many RV adventures, and stay safe.