August 2, 2012

NEWS FOR YOU… from the Iowa Department of Transportation

By Debra Carney
Driver License Supervisor, Office of Driver Services
Davenport, Iowa

Driving an RV

Not so many years ago, campers used to be people. Now, campers or RVs are the things you live in away from home. RV ownership varies from recreational use by individuals, families and retirees, to itinerant workers and in some situations, as a permanent residence.

Many seniors and recent retirees opt for the vagabond lifestyle. Whether you take your RV to warmer climates during the harsh Iowa winters, head north during the summer for your favorite fishing hole, take the ‘one tank’ trips, or live full time in an RV, RV use can provide a relaxing get away.

RVs themselves vary in size from tiny trailers pulled by motorcycles to massive motor homes with all the amenities of home. Proving you can take it with you.

Unless you are operating a motorcycle pulling a camper, there is no special license needed to either pull a travel trailer, 5th wheel or operate a motor home. There is also no age restriction. The average age of RV ownership is in the 40s, though many owners of the larger motor homes and trailers are 65 years old and older.

How long can the older operator continue to operate their RV? There is no correct answer. They may have slower reactions then when they were younger, but they still have driving skills as well as miles of experience. As long as vision and general health are normal, age is not a factor. When a grey haired RV operator has an accident, such as backing into a pole in the campground, it is assumed it was due to the driver’s age. But just as many younger people do the same thing. Younger people are excused, but not the older driver.

As a person gets into their retirement years, they tend to avoid heavily trafficked roadways or areas, or avoid night driving. Their annual driving is substantially reduced. A minor accident is again blamed on age. Driving skills may be rusty and confidence is lost.

So what can you do to continue operating your RV? Provided your vision and general health are normal, practice, even if only in your car. Drive in the more heavily trafficked areas, as well as at night. Realize if you have a driving error, to learn from it, get over it and don’t repeat it. Practice will go a long way to instill confidence.

But, as with many other things in life, there is a time when one must quit. This time is when one may become either physically or mentally unable to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. That does not necessarily mean your camping days are over. Many people have a friend, spouse or other family member who can drive the RV to selected destinations.

Only you can decide what is right for your situation.