The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many parts of the travel industry. Airline travel is down approximately 75% in the U.S. and hotel occupancy this June was nearly 42% vs. 73% last year Instead of flying to a destination and renting a hotel room, many vacationers are opting for an RV - RV sales and rentals are booming. After taking a plunge with the broader market at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., stocks of the largest RV manufacturers have bounced back triple digits. Shares of Thor Industries and Winnebago — the two biggest names in RVs and motor homes — have shot up more than 170% and 240%, respectively, from their March lows.
RV travel makes a lot of sense during these times. It limits the exposure to larger groups in confined areas that comes with air travel and lowers the risk of surface contact with the virus in public areas such as in a hotel. It is also a great way for the family to be together and experience the outdoors. It certainly does seem like RV travel may be a safer way to go for the next family vacation when it comes to COVID-19 (disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this should not be construed as medical advice…please consult your physician). What could go wrong?
Every summer brings out a new batch of Griswolds driving RV’s. If you don’t get my Griswold reference…please ask your parents for clarification or go immediately to Netflix! And, there are more RV’s on the road than ever this year. These are not experienced truck drivers with CDL’s. Most have little or no prior experience in safely piloting a vehicle as tall and wide as an RV. Too often, this results in a damaged overhang as an RV mistakenly pulls into a fast food drive-thru or a trail of broken side-view mirrors as the oversized vehicle sideswipes a row of parked cars while navigating a narrow roadway.
With more than 700,000 vehicles equipped with our video technology and 1.3 million drivers, Lytx is in a unique position to know what’s happening on our roadways. Our clients are receiving numerous reports from their professional drivers about encounters with unsafe RV operators. Some of the more common issues voiced about these drivers are abrupt, unsafe lane changes, misjudgment of vehicle length during a maneuver and RV’s straddling multiple lanes.
So what can you do to minimize your risks when encountering an RV? Here are a few tips:
- Assume the worst. Anticipate it’s a novice RV driver behind the wheel…it’s a Griswold! Stay as far away as possible! That means keeping plenty of following distance. Good following distance gives you more time and space to safely cope with the inevitable mistakes made by inexperienced RV drivers.
- Don't tailgate. We’ve all been caught behind the slow-moving RV on the mountain road. It can be frustrating and it may be putting you behind schedule. It can be a temptation to tailgate the RV driver to send a message to pick it up the pace or move over. Don’t do it! Crowding a driver who is already stressed and struggling to operate an unfamiliar larger vehicle just increases your risk…and it probably won’t solve the problem anyway.
- Avoid traveling alongside an RV. As many truck drivers have reported, RV drivers often drift in the lane or make sudden lane changes. You may be in their blind spot and they won’t see you when they make that quick lane shift. Don’t be caught alongside a novice RV driver when a strong wind pushes them into your lane.
- Watch out for the RV driver looking to enter or cross the roadway as you are approaching. Too many RV drivers misjudge their vehicle’s acceleration or length and may not clear your path in time.
Just another unusual challenge in what, for most of us, may be the most bizarre summer we’ve ever faced. Beware the Griswolds!
Stay safe! Del
Del Lisk, Vice President of Safety Services, Lytx