RoadTrip America

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Operating Your Rental RV Safely, by Mark Helmlinger

During his ten years of field work for NASA, Mark Helmlinger has rented many RVs and driven them under every possible circumstance. His tips, derived from hands-on experience, are a must-read resource for anyone considering renting a recreational vehicle.



Mark Helmlinger
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Anticipate what the traffic around you -- and especially ahead of you -- will do. Use your higher vantage point to see farther down the road, and allow plenty of extra space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Read "Uncle Bob's" tips for driving safely.

Assume that every car on the highway wants to get around you. Let them do so gracefully if at all possible. Do not travel in the "blind spots" of other vehicles, especially big trucks. Keep an eye in the rear-view mirrors. Try to anticipate unexpected or sudden behavior.

On the freeway, beware of drivers passing on the right while speeding up to shoot through the tiny gap between you and the truck just ahead in the other lane. Remember to think about tailgaters as well the traffic ahead of you, and allow plenty of stopping distance. Merge politely, but firmly. Do not hesitate. Reacquaint yourself with right-of-way rules. Use your signals and remember to turn them off.

Truckers are your friends. Treat them with respect. Know how to thank them by flashing your parking lights. Some RVs have a special switch for this. Observe how good truckers drive and take notes. Drive smart! The laws of inertia cannot be broken!

You are driving a big, heavy, high-center-of-gravity vehicle that does not respond like a car. It is critical that you allow sufficient time to check out your rental RV thoroughly. An RV is far more likely to give you the vacation you're hoping for if you take the time to get prepared.

Mark Helmlinger

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