By Pendergast Law on February 26, 2019
Hitting the open road in a recreational vehicle is a popular way to vacation in the Seattle area. The natural beauty and numerous campgrounds just a few hours from Seattle make it a great way for families to get away from the city and enjoy some quality time together.
But how safe are these big family camper units? And worse, what happens when you get into a collision with one?
Who Can Drive an RV?
Driving an RV is nothing like driving a car or even a larger pickup truck, but in Washington, anyone with a standard driver’s license can legally drive an RV. The only time a special license is required is when the RV is being used for commercial purposes. Any person who buys or rents an RV can legally drive the unit for personal use. But that doesn’t mean everyone is prepared to handle these large and rather awkward vehicles.
Why Driving an RV Is More Difficult
There are several challenges RV drivers face. First, the sheer size of a motorhome. Not only does the vehicle’s width leave little margin for error and make it hard to remain in a single lane, it also complicates turning. RVs also have more blind spots than cars, so the driver must be diligent about checking mirrors and remembering where other vehicles are driving in relation to the RV. The length can also make the turning radius of an RV large and sweeping, rather than the tight angle of a car. Drivers must have adequate clearance when turning and be especially careful not to drive over curbs or sidewalks when executing a right turn.
Also, the weight distribution and center of gravity on an RV can vary. An RV that is fully loaded with water and fuel will have a much lower center of gravity than the same RV with no water and an empty fuel tank. Additional weight concerns arise when the RV is carrying full gear for a long trip, as much of it can be stored in cabinets and storage areas higher in the body of the motorhome. The result is a much higher center of gravity and increased instability, which makes motorhomes more prone to tipping and rolling over when turning a tight corner or driving in an area with high crosswinds.
The final challenge lies in how much experience the driver has. In most cases, RV owners only take a trip a once or twice a year, so there can be months between each use. As with any skill, the ability to drive a big camper can degrade when not being used on a regular basis. It can take a day or two for the driver to regain the skills he needs to operate this vehicle in a safe manner, and in that time, many mistakes can occur.
What to Do After an RV Accident
If you are involved in an accident with an RV, you can rest assured that RV owners must follow the same rules of the road as other drivers. Not only must the driver hold a valid driver’s license, he or she must also carry insurance on the motorhome. In fact, RV owners often carry more insurance, because these large vehicles can cause far more damage than a small car could.
Sadly, recent headlines have reminded everyone on the roads near Seattle that RVs do pose a risk to other drivers, as well as the people inside the motorhome. In September, two people died in a RV/car crash that also injured five passengers in the motorhome. In some cases, RV seats are equipped with safety belts, but in older RVs that is not always the case. And unfortunately, not all RV owners are diligent in reminding passengers to buckle up and remain seated while the vehicle is in motion.
In October 2018, an accident involving an RV escalated to a blazing fire, as the RV struck a natural gas line. This fire resulted in the loss of the RV, a car, and an entire building. In any crash, an RV can ignite far more quickly than a car, as it is carrying as much as 150 gallons of fuel in addition to propane tanks for cooking. This adds another potential danger to a collision and a challenge for emergency first responders.
If you have been injured in an accident in the Seattle area involving an RV, contact Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., by calling 888-539-9211. Our personal injury firm has over four decades of experience assisting accident victims just like yourself. Call today and schedule a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your situation and explain your options for seeking compensation for your injuries and losses.