by Paul and Kerri Elders
This month, we’ll take a look at some common sense tips for avoiding road raging drivers. We’ll also give you some great, simple advice on making backing into your favorite camping spot just a little bit easier.
Backing Tips: One of the hardest skills for newbie RVers to master is learning to back an RV into a little camping spot, especially when pulling a trailer. Some simple tips help make that little task a cinch. Practice makes perfect!
The easiest way to back into a spot, of course, is to use a backup camera. But not all rigs have backup cameras, so some tried & true Old School Tricks can help you learn to back like a pro. Backing into any parking spot is much easier if you “back to the driver’s side.” Line yourself up so you can use your driver’s side mirrors and can easily glance over your shoulder through the driver’s side window to clearly see the back end of the rig. Ideally, you want to position your RV at a starting point that lets you back up in a more or less straight line, making small corrections as you go. It’s best to avoid spots that require you to start with a sharp 90 degree turn, unless you have a very skilled and trusted “helper” to back you into place, preferably equipped with a walkie-talkie (2-way radio).
Swing wide and pull into the space across the road (if there’s room). Pull well up ahead to get a straighter backward shot into your space. When preparing to back up, just position your right hand on the bottom of the steering wheel (the “6 o’clock” position). Now, it’s a simple matter of moving that hand in the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go. If you want to back to the left, move your hand to the left. Using this very simple trick all but eliminates ever turning the wheels the wrong way when backing.
Not all spots are perfect spots; you’ll occasionally run into a challenge, like a tight turn when backing or one that makes you back to the passenger side, which is harder to see. Just work with what you’ve got and take your time. If necessary, put on the brake, get out, and look over the situation to decide your best approach. If you find you’ve turned the trailer too tightly (jackknife), just stop, pull forward a few feet and then resume your backing procedure. Easy does it! Take your time and make adjustments and corrections gradually.
Always pay close attention to the surroundings and the “lay of the land,” like culverts, ditches, trees, branches, mailboxes, etc. Lower obstacles are easy to overlook from your cab; if you have a Spotter, make sure they fully understand they need to help you watch the position of the tow vehicle as well as the trailer. You’ll quickly learn the “feel” for backing and it won’t be long at all till you’re an “old pro.”
Skip The Road Rage: Have you ever been happily driving along the highway, enjoying the scenery and indulging in a little friendly conversation with your travel-mates, only to hear a constantly honking, and then BLARING horn? When you glance in your sideview mirror, you see a fist-shaking, screaming, yelling person in a tiny compact car or gigantic SUV, gesturing wildly and speeding to overtake you. Congratulations. You’ve just been ROAD RAGED.
Unfortunately, road rage is a sad fact of modern life, especially in and around our crowded big cities at rush hour. Way too many drivers let their rage take charge whenever they’re behind the wheel, and, unfortunately, too many happy-go-lucky RVers are the target of this rage.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that almost two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused by behaviors classified as “aggressive driving.” The NHTSA gives several specific examples of aggressive driving; how many of these have you seen this week? Screaming or making obscene gestures, aggressive tailgating, headlight flashing, swerving, “revenge braking,” excessive horn honking, passing vehicles on the right side, or speeding through intersections to run red lights. You name it, Road Ragers do it. And then they blame YOU.
Most experts advise that if you encounter an enraged driver, it’s best to try to ignore him or her–don’t even establish eye contact. In the concrete jungle, the laws of the jungle apply, and making eye contact can be seen by the bullying driver as a “challenge.” Avoid competing with him or her; don’t match bad behavior with bad behavior of your own. Let your travel partner DISCREETLY use your mobile phone to report aggressive driving to authorities if you feel threatened or if the behavior you see results in an accident further down the road. Remember that your original objective is to enjoy your trip, so be smart and don’t allow somebody else’s road rage interfere with your joy of the open road. Have fun, stay safe, and don’t let the turkeys get you down!