Filed under: Safety on the Road
Higher Speed Limits – Are they Safe for RVs?
Many states have limits of 75 – even 80 mph on their rural Interstate Highways.
If you have a need for speed, this is great news. If you drive a motorhome or pull a camper, you might want to think twice before you adopt the newer speed limits with your rig.
Like all of the states, Virginia had to reduce its Interstate highway speed limit from 70 to 55 when Congress called for national fuel saving measures after the Arab Oil Embargo of October 1973. Even though fuel prices had risen from an average of 40 cents a gallon to over $1.20 a gallon due to the embargo, most drivers were furious that Interstate Highway speed limits were imposed.
The 55 mph speed limit stuck until 1987 when the Federal Government allowed speeds on some rural Interstate Highway to be increased to 65.
Virginia responded by raising the speed limit for cars to 65, but kept the truck speed limit at 55.
By 1996, when the Federal Speed Limit was totally repealed, Virginia realized that a “dual” speed limit on its highways was more dangerous than beneficial and removed the 55 mph limit on trucks, allowing them to travel the same speed as cars.
Now, some 37 years later, Virginia is pulling down the old speed limit signs and replacing them with new 70 mph signs. The new 70 mph speeds apply to everyone.
Local newspapers touted how the new speed limits would save time and allow truck freight to reach its destination earlier.
Personally, I enjoy speed. I own a sports car that is capable of reaching speeds twice as fast as Virginia’s new 70 mph limit – and then some left over. I spent a number of years participating in sanctioned SCCA racing. I enjoy the g-forces of a 0-60 run in 5 seconds or less and being plastered to the door as I apex a tight mountain turn.
But NOT in my truck or pulling our camper.
Frankly, I am extremely worried about the increased speed limits and RV’s, not to mention heavy trucks. Overall, we have a tendency to drive the speed limit regardless of what we are steering.
My major concerns are:
- The physical condition of many highways is deplorable. While dips in the road, uneven bridge approaches, repaired but rough potholes, and sunken bridge supports may barely be felt in a Lexus, they can easily throw a truck pulling a camper off course and joust the driver well out of his seat. Since Nancy and I use an ex-semi tractor as a tow vehicle for our large fifth wheel trailer, I know the same can happen to truckers.
Tires on camping trailers with a ST designation (Special Trailer) are only speed rated to a maximum of 65 mph. This, of course, does not mean that at 66 mph the tire will explode, it simply means that over 65 the manufacturers load and pressure ratings fly out the window. At 70 mph, you are strictly on your own as far as warranties, safety, and compliance with the tire ratings. Many LT (Light Truck) tires are in the same category as are larger motorhome and big truck tires.
You can expect to see more “alligators” littering the highway. No, not real Alligators – the long strips of tire tread rubber that often come off of trucker’s trailer tires are called alligators by the 18-wheeler drivers. These things are a menace and can lead to vehicle damage or even wrecks when vehicles attempt to avoid them in the middle of the road or, worse yet, hit one.
- The faster you go, the longer the distance it will take to stop. Trailer and motorhome drivers often overlook this. Additional distances between vehicles must be allowed. Sadly, impatient four-wheelers quickly fill in these safety distances as they attempt to pass our view-obstructing rigs. The white-knuckle syndrome will get worse.
- RV fuel mileage can drop drastically by increasing speeds. We may get to a camping site quicker, but it is going to cost more. Higher speeds also increase our “carbon footprint” and environmental impact due to less vehicle efficiency.
Vehicle control changes with speed. It is not just braking distances that increase – vehicle stability decreases proportionally. Crosswinds, passing trucks, turns, and more all become more dangerous as speeds increase. Even trailers weighing less than the tow vehicle can take charge of the entire tow rig. When you have a trailer heavier than your tow vehicle, the trailer is going to be the boss – the truck in front will not stop it from doing what it wants to in a slide, roll, or fishtail event.
I am sure the more safety conscious RV drivers will lower their speed to one that provides safety for their equipment, themselves, passengers and other vehicles. But many will not, further endangering the public. Lowering speed is easy, but the consequences of lowering the speed of an RV can also be negative as faster, more impatient drivers attempt dangerous passing maneuvers or traffic backs up behind them contributing to irritation and aggression. There is noting wrong with pulling off at a rest stop or interchange to allow faster traffic to move on.
As a friend once told me, “Anyone that drives faster than me is a fool, and anyone that drives slower is an idiot!” I cannot say I agree with him, but I know we have many drivers out there that do.
Please, as highway speed limits rise, become even more conscientious of your tire and temperature ratings, road conditions, stopping distances and faster traffic. Slowing down or maintaining speeds at or under 65 mph remains the safest choice for RV drivers.
Remember, just because the sign says that the limit is 70 or even 75 does not mean you must drive your RV at that speed. If the highway you are traveling has a posted minimum speed limit that you are uncomfortable with, get off that highway and take another route. In RVs, trucks and motorhomes, “The Need for Speed” should only be played by the kids in the back seat on their GameBoy.
SPEAK OUT! What is your feeling on higher speed limits and RVs. Tell us your opinions HERE, in the comments section.