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5 Spatial Awareness Tips For Your RV

Updated December 7, 2020 . AmFam Team

Ready to hit the road in your RV? Make sure your spatial awareness is up to par by completing this quick 5-step exercise.

Whether you’re driving a motorhome, an RV you’ve just bought, or cruising in an RV rental, hitting the road in an RV for the first time is always an exciting endeavor. However, one important part of staying safe on the road is being aware of how much space your vehicle takes up — also known as spatial awareness. So before you plan your trip, read through these helpful RV driving tips to avoid damage to people and objects around your vehicle and in your blind spots.

If you drive a car, you’ve developed spatial awareness — for that car. Now, with an RV hitched to your ride, via travel trailer, that awareness must be readjusted.

Without setting aside adequate time to attune yourself to your RV’s size, you run the risk of damaging your prized possession, other people’s property, and/or causing injury.

In order to develop a sense of spatial awareness before you set off on your next road trip, it’s smart to complete the following exercises. So let's begin RV spatial awareness 101!

Tip 1: Practice driving in an empty lot

An empty truck stop or large parking lot is your best friend when you’re ready to practice driving your RV. Make sure there are no cars, people, poles or cement parking blocks around first!

Here, you can practice key maneuvers like parking, K-turns and turning with tail swing in mind. Try taking an hour a day for a week or two to practice. You’ll be glad you did when you find more comfort behind the wheel. Practicing these skills where the risk of collision or injury is all but gone will help you become a masterful driver in no time. Here, you’ll develop the confidence to take those skills out on the open road!

Tip 2: Understand your RV’s tail swing radius

Tail swing refers to the portion of the vehicle starting behind the rear axle and ending at the rear of the vehicle. This portion of the vehicle will move opposite the direction of the front of the vehicle during a turn. If you’re making a right turn, expect your tail swing to go left.

In order to get a visual of just how much tail swing affects your driving, draw a line with chalk on the pavement along the side of your RV. While you watch from the rear, have another driver drive forward making as tight of a turn as possible.

Repeat the test both to the left and right multiple times, paying attention to how far the RV swings away from the line. Then, try switching with the driver and practice yourself! That way, you’ll have a visual understanding of just how much space is needed to make a turn.

Tip 3: Know the height of your RV

Now that you’ve got the turning portion down, it’s also important to know your RV’s clearance level. Each state marks the height of bridges and overpasses differently, so it’s important to pay attention around each bridge you must clear. Also pay attention to gas station canopies, banks, ATMs, and fast food drive-thrus, as they might be too low for your RV to clear.

It’s a good idea to measure your RV from the highest rooftop item to the ground, write the measurement on a label, and stick the label to the top left corner inside your windshield. That way, whoever’s driving will have a quickly available measurement to reference when they need it.

Tip 4: Work with a good spotter on the road

Even the best spatial awareness is made even better with a spotter. When possible, designate a spotter among your travel buddies to make sure you and your rig are being as safe as possible.

Tip 5: Always have your trip planned out

Before you hit the road, have a plan! Know where you want to go and map out your route to get there ahead of time. This includes being aware of any low-clearance bridges or detours.

There are a number of apps that you can use to navigate your trip ahead of time. Some are free, like Roadtrippers (Opens in a new tab), but others — such as Allstays (Opens in a new tab) — will charge a small fee for their services.  

Head Out on the Road with Full Peace of Mind

Now that you know how to master basic RV maneuvering skills, the next most important task is getting in touch with your American Family Insurance agent to make sure you’ve got all the right coverage. Make sure you’re getting all the right RV insurance discounts, too! With our bundle discount options, you’ll hit the road knowing you’ve got the best coverage at the best price.

With a little practice, you’ll get a feel for your RV in no time! You’ll also be developing the peace of mind to get out there and enjoy your adventure, one mile at a time.

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