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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Safety when we travel
From time to time we've been asked whether we feel safe when traveling thousands of miles through the country. The answer is YES, as long as we observe a number of basic rules, call them precautions. What are those rules we follow? Let's have a look at that:

  • OUR VEHICLE: It goes without saying that we have to make sure our vehicle is in safe driving conditions. For bigger rigs the conditions of our TIRES are of utmost importance. Blow-outs can end disastrous. I have just recently learned that one should neither apply the brakes, nor take the foot of the accelerator too abruptly. Rather apply more pressure to your gas pedal, thus increasing the force that drives your vehicle forward. If that is not done the force pulling your vehicle sideways and off the road can be hard to handle in an unexpected blow-out. When you have gained controll over the vehicle you take the foot off the gas pedal, thereby slowly coming to a full stop. Make sure the vehicle's brakes are in good working order. The worst thing which could happen is loosing your brakes on a long steep down-grade. Make sure you also have enough windshield washer fluid in the can. If you can't see a thing through a dirty smeared windshield you don't drive safe. We bring our Motor Home to a certified shop every year and get everything checked before going on the big trail.
  • SPEED AND VIEW: Driving a big rig over highways and through cities requires extra caution. Our all-around view is limited, the dead-zone along the sides of the vehicle much larger than with a regular car. Driving in tight city traffic I constantly watch the vehicles coming up from behind. That way I know 
    when the last vehicle has passed and I can make a safe lane shift.
    In cities pedestrians are crossing. I make sure I always can come to a stop without causing an accident. At the same time fuel economy is best if our highway speed does not exceed 65 mph. Approaching a red light, I do not race up to it but slow down in time, thus often getting the green light before coming to a full stop. Saves fuel too! Don't make the dash to "catch" the green light before it turns. Your attention to possible vehicles approaching is very limited at that moment and pedestrians may be underway to cross the road inspite of having a red light! Remember, we are on vacations and have all the time of the world.           I often see big rigs racing down a long down-grade. It makes me shiver. A sudden wind gust would be enough to make them swerve and get out of controll. A safe descend  starts with adjusting the speed and gearing down approbriately BEFORE we reach 75mph.  If your motor home or truck has a retarder brake, use it. It is the best way to get down that steep mountain. I have been on a 14% down-grade in Utah. By gearing down already on the top, using the retarder brake (or tow-haul function on your truck), I made it down safely.
  • ADVERSE WEATHER CONDITIONS
Listen to weather reports before you go!
 FOG: We all get into it from time to time. Fog is dangerous as it limits our view ahead. SLOW DOWN or even pull out and STOP. I have a horror of hitting a stopped vehicle in dense fog.
RAIN: Extreme amounts of water on the road can lead to loosing controll of your vehicle and is known as aquaplaning. It also limits your vision ahead and to the rear. Your back-up camera will only show a white or grey screen. 
WIND: It is something we have always experienced on our travels. WIND can blow a high-profile vehicle right off the road or flipp it over. Neither is a desired experience and we have stopped for wind storms more than just a couple of times. It also brings your fuel economy to horrendous bad figures. 
SNOW/ICE: There is a safe way to avoid problems with snow on the road: You must find a place to stop and wait it out.  Trying to drive on snowy or icy roads is asking for trouble. Be aware off bridges which freeze over sooner than the highway. On an icy morning I'd wait until the sun is out and has thawed the roads. 

  • PREVENTING CRIME  This is a very important part of our traveling safety. Finding a place for an overnight stop along the highway might have it's challenges. Campgrounds and RV-parks might not be open during the late fall or early spring. So we need to find an alternative. There are truck stops, which I generally consider as safe, and there are Walmart parking lots along most roads. Walmart runs security on their parking lots. There are security cameras and there are bright night lights, and besides of that they are mostly pretty quiet at night. Staying in public rest areas is not the safest location as those can be pretty empty during the night. On many larger rest areas along major highways truckers pull in at night, which will add safety to the place. NEVER pull into a too quiet country road or a hidden-away forested area. If you are underway on secondary highways and need an overnight stop, try find a gas station and ask them for a permit to stay overnight. You can do the same with other parking lots in shopping malls, but you'd have to ask permission. 

  • STRANGERS Some times you may be approached by strangers. Where ever you are, never open or unlock the door to strangers. Talk through the window and be ready for quick action if necessary. Always have a charged-up cell phone handy. If you see an accident, happening, call 911 but remain in your vehicle until you deem the situation to be safe. Don't cross highways by foot! Leave your kids and your pet in the rig! Have your camera handy for taking pictures of the scene!

  • PREVENTING A FIRE  Thousands of RVs burn down every year. The reasons can be many. As we carry propane we ought to make sure that we have no gas leaks on the rig. The simple flick of a switch can lead to an explosion of accumulated propane along the floor. A propane gas detector will warn you very loud if propane is around. Smoke detectors can be a hassle, I know, as they go off even if you fry up some bacon on the stove, but they are present in every RV. Make sure the batteries are working. When taking something off the stove, make sure the gas is turned off. It actually happens I forget it too! Sometimes a turned-down flame can be blown out by draft. Watch that too.  Don't drive with the water boiler or the furnace switched on. If it is cold in your motor home while driving, run the generator and let an electric fan do the job. It's safer than the built-in furnace, and hardly more expensive. Fires often occur at the fridge.   It is necessary to keep the chimney of the propane fridge clean. Propane creates sot which will settle on the inside of the chimney. When the hot air cannot escape fast enough heat will increase in the lower part. Keep the burner clean as well, and make sure no flammable materials are close to the chimney. Carry at least two fire extinguishers and have them placed at easy accessible places in the rig. Be careful with carrying full gas cans in your luggage compartments. Fumes might escape and create an explosive environment in the confined space. Here are more tips for preventing a fire
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    Don't let this happen to YOU
Now, stay safe out there, and thanks for peeking around the corner!

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