RV Safety Tip: Merging into traffic… the right way

It happened again. We’d just finished breakfast at a rest stop along the Interstate and were ready to get back on the road. We were not alone. Several other RVs headed out ahead of us. Work trucks and semis joined our lineup. We all approached the highway on-ramp, each vehicle eager to get back on the road. Morning traffic was light and moving steadily on the Interstate. That’s when it happened. The lead RV stopped. It came to a dead standstill. At the end of the on-ramp. One RVer, following the lead RV too closely had to veer onto the shoulder to avoid causing a rear-end accident. The rest of us applied brakes and shook our heads. It was another case of incorrectly merging.

Having grown up in rural Iowa, miles and miles away from the closest Interstate, my Driver’s Education only made passing mention of how to properly merge into moving highway traffic. I never got to practice my merging skills until I was in college. Our morning near-accident left me wondering if maybe other folks could also use an update on how to merge safely.

Drive defensively

Never assume what another driver is going to do. This is especially true when merging into or out of traffic, proceeding through intersections, or turning to the left or right. Always remember that driving or towing an RV means that it may take longer to bring your rig to a complete stop. The length of your RV will affect your ability to safely swerve to avoid problems, too. Above all, try to keep a cool head and relax. Arriving alive beats “making good time” or “getting there first.”

Merging safely

Here are the steps for safely merging into the flow of traffic, as presented by the auto insurance company State Farm.

  • Adjust your speed to match the flow of traffic before entering the roadway.
  • Yield to drivers on the freeway, but avoid stopping unless absolutely necessary.
  • Find a three- to four-second gap in traffic to merge. And be looking for the vehicle you want to be behind.
  • Check for cars around your vehicle before entering a lane. And remember to check your blind spot. Your mirrors will only reflect where they are aimed. So be sure to actually turn your head to see if the way is clear.
  • Use your turn signals early, a recommended 100 to 300 feet before merging or changing lanes.
  • Wait for the solid line to end before merging. A solid line indicates that lane changes are prohibited.
  • Cross one lane of traffic at a time.

Know the laws

If you travel with your RV from state to state, be sure you are familiar with each state’s highway laws. Knowing and following the rules of the road will keep you and your travel buddies safe, potentially avoid costly accidents, and reduce the chances of injury or even death to other drivers who share the road with you.

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