Whether the idea of renting or owning a recreational vehicle has ever appealed to you or not, you might eye these homes on wheels with nervousness when you are sharing the road with them. You would have good reason to be nervous. Motorhomes are big, unwieldy vehicles that are often driven by older, untrained people, making for a dangerous combination. If you are in an accident caused by the driver of an RV, not only could you suffer catastrophic injuries, but you could also face challenges holding the driver accountable. Our Albuquerque car accident lawyer takes a look at the kinds of RVs we often see in New Mexico and the dangers they pose for other drivers.
What Is a Recreational Vehicle?
Campers, motorhomes, RVs—whatever you call them, they are a symbol of American travel and leisure, particularly for retired people. These remarkable vehicles allow you to take your home on the road and see the country without the need for a single hotel reservation. The term recreational vehicle encompasses a range of vehicle types, each posing unique driving challenges and risks to other motorists. RV models you are likely to see on New Mexico’s roads include:
- Class A motorhomes. The largest RV available, these are literal houses on wheels. Weighing up to 30,000 pounds and measuring up to 45 feet in length, these motorhomes look like Greyhound buses and drive like them, too. Despite their size, no special training or licensing is required in most states. New Mexico does require a Class E driver’s license if the vehicle weighs over 26,000 pounds, but this license is merely an exemption to a Commercial Driver’s License that is normally required for such a large vehicle.
- Truck campers. These vehicles are created by affixing a mobile living unit to the bed or chassis of a pickup truck. While it might appear to drive just like an ordinary pickup truck, the handling and dynamics of the vehicle are changed drastically by the addition of the camper, and the driver must be aware of the difference in order to drive it safely.
- Class C motorhomes. These vehicles are slightly smaller than a Class A RV but carry many of the same risks. They can be unsteady and difficult to maneuver.
- Fifth wheels. These travel trailers can be almost as big as a Class A motorhome and must be towed by a powerful vehicle. In some ways, they pose more risk than a Class A motorhome because of the added complications involved with hooking up the trailer, maneuvering with a trailer attached, and the temptation to load them with cargo.
- Travel trailers. Smaller camping trailers, such as pop-ups, teardrops, and other “mini” versions of larger trailers, are often the cause of accidents because drivers overestimate the towing capacity of their vehicles, don’t hook them up properly, and don’t understand that they require special handling just like a bigger trailer.
The bottom line is that any kind of RV—large or small—can cause a crash when the driver is inexperienced, careless, or outright reckless.
Common Causes of RV Crashes in New Mexico
These vehicles might be the ticket to an exciting adventure, but even though their size and instability are similar in many ways to semi-trucks, RVs require no training or special licensing to drive. That means anyone can get behind the wheel and potentially cause an accident. Approximately 80,000 accidents involving RVs are reported each year. While this is significantly lower than crashes involving cars, it is an alarming number considering how few RVs are on the road at any given time. Some of the most common causes of RV accidents include:
- Speeding. Large, awkward vehicles do not handle well at high speeds—even speeds that are technically legal on the highway. Speeding RVs cannot take turns safely, nor can they be stopped quickly. Speed is a factor in nearly every RV crash.
- Fatigue. The whole point of a motorhome is to have an adventure while getting to your next adventure. Unfortunately, this also means that RV drivers tend to drive longer than they should and can wind up dozing off behind the wheel. Add to that the advanced age of many RV drivers, and the likelihood that an RV is being driven by a fatigued driver increases.
- Strong winds. High-profile vehicles don’t do well in bad weather, especially in high winds. On the open roads of New Mexico, this is a particular problem. A strong gust can surprise a driver and push the RV into the next—or even an oncoming—lane of traffic.
- Overloading. RVs are not intended for cargo-hauling, and all guidelines on weight limit and proper loading should be followed to ensure that your vehicle is not overloaded or unevenly loaded. An improperly loaded RV can be difficult to handle, pull to one side, and overturn more easily with a sudden maneuver.
- Blind spots. Drivers accustomed to cars are not in the habit of thoroughly checking the extensive blind zones that large RVs have. Even with oversized side mirrors and backup cameras, careless RV drivers can cut off other drivers they can’t see, causing a devastating crash.
- Rollovers. Because RVs have a high center of gravity, they are much more likely to tip when making a turn, particularly if the driver is exceeding 55 miles per hour. When an RV tips or rolls over, it takes nearby cars with it.
- Trailer mishaps. Towing a trailer requires caution—not only while driving but also when hooking the trailer up. Poor connections, malfunctioning safety lights, speeding, and bad weather can all cause dangerous trailer accidents.
If you are involved in a crash with a motorhome that was not your fault, any one of these causes could be to blame for the accident, and the driver of the RV should be held accountable.
Potential Problems With Filing a Claim
Recreational vehicle owners are required to carry liability insurance, but if they fail to follow safety protocols with the vehicle, they could run into trouble with their insurance companies. In New Mexico, it would not be unusual for the driver of an RV that caused your crash to be from out of state. This can make filing a claim more complicated. An experienced car accident attorney will give you the best chance at a full and fair recovery of the damage caused by the negligent driver. As a victim of their carelessness, you should not suffer because of their mistakes.