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RV Accidents: Common Causes and What to Avoid

This post was updated on May 18th, 2023

According to a government report, RVs are involved in over 76,000 accidents per year. This is about a third of what passenger vehicles average every year. This is one of the many reasons why RV insurance is a lot less than car insurance.

Traveling in an RV is safe and can be the best experience of your life. Like any vehicle, you have to know what your coach is capable of, be a responsible driver, and obey all regulatory standards set by governing authorities. The RV lifestyle is supposed to be one of taking it slow and easy.

Our discussion will explore the many aspects of RV incidents on the road. We’ll point out the common causes behind RV accidents, what you should do when you’re in one, and how your insurance generally works. We’ll also show you some extreme examples of accidents that have happened across the country.

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Common Causes for RV Accidents

Red warning triangle with a broken down car
  • Wind gusts RVs are top-heavy and have tall sidewalls. Many have ended up flipped on their side due to a gust catching a driver off-guard. For towables, this is the culprit for a good portion of your sway problems.

    Another part of wind issues is driving next to an 18-wheel truck. When they are beside you, the air between you and the truck creates a vacuum that draws you in. Once they pass, the breaking of the vacuum will push you away.

  • Driving tired: According to WebMD, driving while tired slows your reaction time, impairs your judgment, hinders your coordination, and increases your aggressiveness. These factors are similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2003, the State of New Jersey enacted “Maggie’s Law” making driving while drowsy a criminal offense.
  • Altering substances: Intoxicants like alcohol, some prescription medication, and other substances decrease our ability to react or make clear decisions. If you know you’re going to have a reaction to a certain medication or other material, creating strategies around those time periods can keep you and others safe. Remember, you have a comfortable place to rest behind your driver’s seat.
  • Vehicle weight problems: No one will penalize you if you are a pound or two above your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Driving your RV significantly unbalanced or overweight strains your brakes, suspension, and chassis. The last thing you want is your brakes going out because they were overstrained one too many times.
  • Speeding: RVs are not designed for high speeds. It takes a longer time to slow them down and increases pressure on the automotive parts. Driving within the optimum “sweet spot” speed not only keeps your RV running well, but saves you fuel.
  • Inexperience and miscalculations: Most states require RV drivers to be at least 21 years of age before driving/towing an RV. Even if they’re older enough, veteran RVers will tell you to take the coach out for the first couple weeks to get a feel for it. Their goal is to learn where the pivot points are, best braking distance, how it handles backing up, and other ways their new RV handles to avoid problems down the road.
  • Bad braking: Virtually every towable RV comes with its own brakes. When not maintained, these brakes can fail, making the tow vehicle take the combined weight of itself and the RV. If you’re driving too close to the person in front of you, this could cause a major accident.
  • Runaway trailer: An RV becomes a runaway when it jumps off its hitch and runs down the road without its tow vehicle. To avoid this, make sure you use the proper hitch size, balance your RV weight, and use the safety chains that are required by all 50 states. Using a hitch lock can also prevent the grabbing mechanism from coming loose as well.
  • Mechanical disrepair: RVs are machines that need to be maintained. Keeping up with your preventive maintenance is the best solution to keeping the automotive parts of your coach from failing. The hundreds you spend now, can save you thousands and lives later.
  • Blind spots: Many accidents occur due to RVs merging into the other lane without realizing someone else is there. There are many blind spots on an RV. Use your mirrors and cameras diligently.
Seek legal assistance for RV

In an accident involving an RV, it’s not always clear who the at-fault party is. Sometimes it’s as clearcut as one driver or the other. Other times it could be a manufacturer flaw or something beyond anyone’s control.

It’s always advisable to have legal representation to handle the case for you. Especially if the incident happened in a different state than where you live. They have the legal experience and resources to take care of all the procedural work for you.

Lawyers also know how to research the matter in a way that you may not. They know how to determine what laws are significant to the case, and how to argue the case for your benefit. They may also help you with your insurance filing too.

What Your RV Insurance Will Do for You

RV insurance is a policy that mixes both car and home policies together. When your RV is in an accident on the road, it’s required by law that motorhomes have at least liability coverage since you drive them. Towables are not legally required to have liability since the tow vehicle has it already.

If you’re financing your RV, more than likely the lender requires you to have comprehensive and collision to protect them from the loss. RV insurers have bodily injury coverages for both third-parties and you to handle any medical costs associated with the incident. They also have underinsured/non-insured coverages to help fill the gaps the other driver’s insurance can’t.

To assist you in finding a place to stay, cover food, and other essentials, many insurers have a vacation loss policy. If your RV is a total loss more than 50 miles from your home, they’ll immediately pay you a certain amount for a hotel and other expenses while you’re getting everything in order. There are additional policies to cover the injuries of your pet as well.

There are differences between full and part-time policies. Full-time coverage includes loss assessment and personal liability. Speak with your insurance agent or your insurer’s representatives to make sure you are fully informed on how your policy works.

5 True Stories

Mobile home in a scenic icelandic campsite

The following events are true stories of serious RV accidents throughout the United States and Canada. We will give you the overall facts of the events and link the news report if you want to learn more. Our purpose is to show examples of real-life accidents and what to watch out for.

Los Angeles, CA: Stolen RV in a Police Pursuit

On May 22, 2019, a 52-year-old woman led police on a high-speed chase from Santa Clarita, CA to San Fernando Valley, CA in a stolen Class A motorhome. During the chase, she drove on the wrong side of the road, crashed into other cars, and created a lot of other damage. Due to her desperate driving, people were injured and killed as she evaded the police.

She was stopped by running into a tree. The driver herself was reported to sustain minor injuries and the two dogs that were in the RV had non-life threatening wounds. The woman was booked for evading police and causing injury or death with a $100,000 bail.

Quebec, Canada: Broken Brakes

On June 27, 2019, an RV was recorded on video descending down a hill toward an already launched water ferry. At the water’s edge, it launches up and landed cab-first onto the stern deck of the ship. The driver was killed and the passenger was in critical condition.

It was later determined that the brake system failed. The driver did everything he could to warn people to get out of the way by honking the horn and trying to swerve into the metal guard rail to stop. Whether this was unique to this particular unit or an overall design flaw was not reported.

Flagstaff, AZ: Senior Rescued From Burning RV

At the beginning of June 2019, a woman drove into a motorhome causing the RV to catch on fire. A nearby witness broke through the RV’s windows and pulled the 76-year-old man out of the burning coach, saving his life. The driver of the RV was on I-40 driving eastbound from California to Texas to visit family.

The woman driving the wrong way died in the crash. Although the elderly gentleman lost his dog, they were able to find his wife’s urn among the ashes. His family had the opportunity to thank his rescuer and set up a GoFundMe page to help the senior man get back on his feet.

Flager County, FL: Motorhome Tire Blows

On January 26, 2020, A Class C motorhome driving from Orlando on I-95 veered off the side of the road killing three people and injuring a fourth. This occurred due to a tire blowing. After they ran through a road sign, they were stopped by a set of two trees.

Two of the passengers were killed by the accident. The third died in the hospital and the fourth only received minor injuries. Due to this accident, it caused a secondary chain-reaction accident on the southbound side.

Idaho to Oregon- 90 Mile Road Rage

On June 1, 2016, four truck drivers, one driving a $750,000 RV, and three who worked for the same trucking company battled each other for lane position. One would pass the other, prevent another from passing, brake check, and use other dangerous tactics. This started in Idaho and ended in Oregon when a couple in a compact car ended up in a head-on collision with one of the trucks.

The collision happened because the driver of the RV wouldn’t allow the truck driver back into the correct lane of traffic. The surviving husband went to court over the matter. The trucker in the collision went to jail for 75 months, and the husband received a combined verdict of $26 million.

Am I Safe in My RV?

Firefighters helping an injured woman in a car

RV safety standards are different than passenger cars. They also have the lowest accident statistics on American roads. RVs have the lowest insurance rates because of these and many other reasons.

RVs are safe when used correctly. You are driving/towing a heavy vehicle that’s not meant for speed or aggressive driving. Due to the variables on the road, you need to stay focused and not let the road hypnotize you.

Keep up with your preventive maintenance and have your RV checked out at least once a year. Tires wear down, bearing lose grease, driving lights burn out, and other automotive parts break down. RV manufacturers recommend yearly checkups for your coach just like your doctor for your health.

If you’re going to have long driving days, take frequent breaks. A great technique is the water bottle approach. Drink a bottle of water at the beginning of your drive, that way it forces you to stop to use the facilities.

A great planning technique is the “8-is-12” technique. Plan to drive eight hours, because with traffic and breaks it’ll probably take you 12 hours to cover the same distance. This way you won’t feel rushed if you have to stick to a schedule.

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There are many other safe RV driving tips you can pick up from veteran RVers throughout your travels. All you have to do is walk up to the nearest campfire and start up a conversation. There’s a reason they call us the “friendliest community” in America.

Product data was last updated on 2024-05-27 at 15:34.

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