Filed under: Preparation & Readiness, Safety on the Road, Traveling Tips
Five Easy Tips for Safety on the Road
On our summer road trip this year, we dealt with some safety issues and had to face the possibility of needing to end our trip early. While no one likes to think about that possibility, there are occasions when it becomes the only safe alternative. Luckily we were able to continue on our journey, but we had laid some groundwork for being able to make that decision ahead of time. While most of these ideas amount to simple common sense, I would like to share these with you as they may not be something you will have thought about, especially if you are new to road/camping trips or have been lucky enough to avoid safety concerns on previous journeys.
1) Stay well within your tow/load limits. When purchasing our camper, we checked out the approved tow load for our Dodge Durango and made sure to purchase a camper that was well below the load limit. Pay attention to what your camper will weigh fully loaded with food, water and clothing as well; most dealers will be able to provide this information for you.
2) Have your tow vehicle (and your trailer) checked out before your trip. In spite of our careful planning, and the fact that our Durango should be easily able to pull our fully loaded 18’ Trail-Lite camper, we had some trouble last year with the Durango overheating while traveling in the mountains. In anticipation of our trip this year, Terry took it in to our favorite Dodge dealer, explained the issues we were having it and had them give it a complete check up. While it cost a nominal amount of money to have this done, the peace of mind was well worth it.
3) Travel at a slower speed than if you were not towing. I can hear the “Duh!” from you experienced RV travelers, but many of us move from tent camping to towing a trailer or camper and this necessary change is not immediately apparent. The lesson that your travel speed while towing your sleeping quarters must be slower than when your tent and sleeping bags are handily packed inside your vehicle took us some time to learn. Additionally your estimates of how many miles you can (or want to) cover in a day must change. Make sure both the driver and the navigator/planner are on the same page with this change. It took us a couple of years to get to the point where our estimates are accurate and reasonable when traveling with our camper.
4) Travel with a GPS or cell phone with internet/GPS access if at all possible. In spite of your best preparations, you may still encounter a problem on the road. This year, our Durango began to struggle while towing the camper through the cornfields of Iowa. Granted the temperature was 100 degrees outside and the seemingly flat terrain of Iowa is simply very long uphills and downhills; the incline is often so slight that you don’t realize you are even ascending. When we began to notice our vehicle getting dangerously close to overheating, I was at least able to pull out my Blackberry and search for Dodge dealers in eastern Nebraska and get driving directions to the one closest to our route. A very helpful service!
5) If all else fails, do not hesitate to make the decision to stop. Both Terry and I were prepared to stop before we reached the campground where our reserved site was located, or to make the decision to end the trip and head home if necessary. This is probably a discussion you want to have before you leave home, as there are many things that can occur on a road trip that can make stopping the best decision for a traveler. As it turned out, we reduced our speed even further, pulled over when the temperature got too high to let it cool down and re-routed our trip over four-lane state highways rather than interstates to make it easier to travel at a slower speed. These changes prevented our vehicle from overheating. We did finally arrive at our first destination, albeit a bit later than predicted, and the remainder of our trip proceeded without incident.
While there is great excitement in over-the-road travel, there is an element of danger as well. It is better to be safe, and make it home alive and healthy, than to push on and have life-changing repercussions occur. Safe travels!
For more tips about traveling safely, check out Woodalls for a wide variety of travel and camping articles.