PLAY IT SAFE
Copyright 2004. The Good Sam Club, 2575 Vista Del Mar Drive, Ventura, CA
93001. Reprinted from the February 2004 issue of Highways with permission. For
subscription information, call (800)
Friday January 23,
"The last thing you want to do," Linda
Dragan says, "is buy something 27 feet long and not know what to do with
It's an interesting thought, and one that gave Dragan and
husband Ron pause as they stood outside Vans RV Center in South Windsor,
Conn., considering whether they should purchase a travel trailer. The
Dragans had never owned an RV before and were somewhat intimidated by the
prospect of pulling a trailer, both from a safety and operational
But Vans RV Center had a unique sales approach.
After whetting their appetites with tours of several units, the
dealership loaned the couple an instructional video about how to operate a
travel trailer. The video, produced by Mark Polk of RV Education 101 in
Fayetteville, N.C., covered everything from weights and towing to
campground setup, leveling and operating a trailer's water, holding-tank,
electricity and LP-gas systems.
The video was so good, Dragan
says, that she watched it five times and gleaned enough information from
it that she felt she and her husband could safely operate the unit. So
they headed back to the dealership and purchased a 27-foot
slideout-equipped SunLine travel trailer that they planned to tow with
their Toyota Tundra.
"We had never owned an RV
before," Dragon says. "But the video gave us confidence in buying the
So much, in fact, that she subsequently scoured the
Internet to find Polk's website at www.rveducation101.com
and ordered all of his
instructional RV videos, plus a couple of his e-books.
Unfortunately, however, many consumers are not so well informed
before they hit the road in their RV. So, consider the statistics compiled
by Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire and the Recreational Vehicle
Safety Education Foundation:
Almost 25% of all recreational-vehicle enthusiasts on the road today
have overloaded tires, which can impede normal brake performance while
increasing their chances of having a blowout.
Four out of five RVs in one recent survey had at least one
underinflated tire, and a third of those were dangerously low to the point
of inviting failure.
Nearly 40% of RV users say they go six months or more without checking
their tires, even though tires in good condition can lose between 1 and 2
pounds of inflation pressure per month.
85% of motorhomes and campers on the road are unevenly loaded or have
their loads out of balance by 400 pounds or more.
these highlight the fact that many RVers are not aware of even basic
things they should do to safely operate their vehicles.
problem, says Polk, is two fold: Dealers do not typically allocate enough
time to properly educate their customers about the fundamentals of RV
operation and safety, and even when they do make a sincere effort to do
so, consumers often find themselves overwhelmed by a barrage of
information that may involve everything from appliances and holding tanks
to tow hitches, slideouts and the general maintenance and safe operation
of the vehicle itself.
"You can give somebody the best
walk-through," Polk says. "I gave walk-throughs myself. But it's a matter
of retention. And when you cram that much information in a two-hour period
of time, they're probably retaining about 25% of that. And if they don't
go out and use that (information) themselves within a week of purchasing,
they're not going to retain it."
That's precisely the way the
Dragans felt, even as they were previewing several units.
concern came with not knowing if we would remember all that we were
learning," Dragan says. In this context, Polk's instructional videos
helped fill the information void and gave the Dragans a resource they
could go back to again and again, whenever they needed a refresher course.
The video series, which encompasses popups, travel trailers as
well as Class A and C motorhomes, also addresses the persistent problem of
"It happens every day," Polk says.
"The ample storage space in many of today's
RVs gives people the illusion that they can carry more than they really
can," he says.
And overloading, Polk says, can easily lead to
blowouts and other safety hazards. But people often don't know how much
weight their RV is really designed to carry or how much it weighs when
ready for the road.
Another place to find comprehensive
information is in The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books. Written by Bill
Estes, publisher of MotorHome and Trailer Life, it is considered
the bible for the RV road warrior and is packed with checklists, photos,
schematics and charts - as well as plenty of sound, user-friendly
There are other avenues, such as the following,
where consumers bolster their knowledge of RV safety.
RV Safety Rally
The annual Good Sam RV Safety Rally, which is
sold out for 2004, offers classes and safety instruction at a campground
in New Carlisle, Ind. For more information about the 2005 rally, call
866-457-7354 or www.goodsamclub.com.
Defensive Driving Courses
Offered at many state Samborees and
at the Great North American RV Rally, the courses provide extensive
instruction. Visit www.goodsamclub.com for more information.The
course is offered at the following state Samborees:
For more information about Samborees and
scheduled Good Sam's Defensive Driving Courses, call Member Services at
- March 4, Arizona
- April 22, North Carolina
- June 3, Idaho
- June 21-24, Kansas,Great North American RV Rally
- June 3, Nebraska
- June 11, Connecticut
- June 24, New Jersey
- June 26, Washington
- Oct. 15, Virginia
- Nov. 17, Florida
Life on Wheels
Offered at four
locations throughout the year, the program includes general RV and safety
information. Visit www.lifeonwheels.com or call 866-569-4646. The
course is offered at the following locations:
Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire
- May 14-17, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
- July 12-16, University of Idaho, Moscow
- Aug. 6-9, Northampton Community College,Bethlehem, Pa.
- Aug. 27-30, Des Moines Area Community College,Ankeny,
company has developed a free booklet titled Rx for Light Trucks, RVs,
Mini-Buses & Ambulances that can be obtained by calling 800-543-7522
or by visiting the company's website at www.tiresafety.com.
Vehicle Safety Education Foundation
Based in Merritt Island,
Fla., the foundation assists RV owners in understanding the various
terminology regarding weight and load specifications, and provides
information about the potential hazards and expenses that can result from
traveling in an RV when exceeding established ratings for tires, axles,
hitches and the vehicle itself. Visit www.rvsafety.org or call 321-453-7673.
Good Sam Chapters of Saskatchewan
Some local state
or provincial Good Sam Club chapters think that RV safety is so important
they plan their own RV safety clinic. In May, the Band City Good Sams of
Moose Jaw hold a clinic and safety check for chapter members and the
community. In all, seven safety clinics are held in seven Saskatchewan
cities by the 12 Good Sam Club chapters in that province. For more
information, contact Jim Affleck at 306-949-2565.
is continuing to expand his video selection. At the time of this writing,
he was working to complete a video that addresses issues involving RV
towing, weights, hitch work and backing.
"I think this is the most
crucial one we've done to date," he says. To order the new video, visit