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Old 01-16-2009, 10:16 AM   #1
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In another thread, there was discussion that it may be negligence to permit some drivers, particularly older ones to crawl behind the wheel of a MH. I understand the logic behind that statement but wanted to explore it a little more, without hijacking a thread.

For me, the subject needs to be put into context. Here is that context as I see it.
1. Anyone with a "normal" passenger car driver's license can go to U-Haul or Hertz-Penske and rent a moving truck. Loaded, many of those larger trucks are in the same weight range as smaller MHs.
2. There are special license requirements for MHs over 26,000lbs in most states. While I seriously question the effectiveness of the written and driving tests associated with those license classifications, they do exist. There may be a portion of the MH driving population with a vehicle that falls into that category without the proper license. There definitely some like me, with lighter weight MHs who have no special license requirements.
3. In spite of the potentially negligent situation, my insurance company offers me MH insurance at lower cost than my passenger vehicles. My expectation is that if the insurance company felt the level of risk that the term "negligent" implies, my insurance rate would be significantly different.
4. I've not see statistics that indicate an accident rate problem with RVs in general and MHs in particular. I do realize that if half of us with a MH were to go out tomorrow and crash it, the results would not likely be significant in the greater driving accident rate - we are just not that big of a group.
5. There is significant reporting on MH fires. We are constantly seeing those reports. My expectation is that if the crash rate were as great as the fire rate, especially if there were serious injuries or fatalities involved, the news media would be carrying those stories at significant rates, too. That does not attempt to deny that there are MH crashes, some of them severe.
6. A part of the equation is the low number of miles that a typical MH drives in a year. I understand the industry average to be around 3,500miles. Passenger car average mileage is significantly greater and with significantly more risk of accident involvement, irregardless of operator skills.
7. In spite of a lack of experience on such a large vehicle, the average MH driver is older and probably has a cleaner driving record than the average passenger vehicle driving population. In my case, I've been accident and citation free (knock on wood) for more than 30 years. While I'm certainly not the best of drivers, I do work hard at defensive driving and make almost a fetish out of anticipating problems. I suspect that the worst of the MH driver, due to unfamiliarity and lack of experience, is probably a great deal more attentive while driving their RV than other drivers as a whole. It is possible that the attentiveness trumps experience in many cases.

So, where am I going wrong?

Charlie
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Old 01-16-2009, 11:29 AM   #2
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I don't see anything wrong with your logic, but the lack of accident data specific to motorhomes (or even RVs in general) makes it difficult to prove or disprove anything. I know of a statistician on another web site who has been trying to figure out motorhome fatality rates but the data just isn't publicly available. There is some official data on motorhome deaths, but it has proven impossible to get reliable mileage data for motorhomes as a class, making it almost guesswork to calculate a fatality rate per 100k miles (which is how the NHTSC normalizes statistics). However, using the range of popularly accepted annual mileage estimates from sources such as the RVIA and FMCA, the data suggests that motorhome fatalities are either roughly equal to other vehicles or substantially less.

As you say, insurance companies apparently believe motorhomes are no worse than any other vehicle, since the liability insurance rates are equal or less than passenger car rates. Since insurance companies are in the business of calculating vehicle/driver risks and have their own extensive (and private) databases to work from, it seems likely they are closer to the facts than anything you or I might conjecture.
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Old 01-16-2009, 11:53 AM   #3
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Gary, I agree with your statement that the insurance companies are closer to harder facts about MH driving than any of us.

Some of my comments were intended to address perception. If one weren't familiar with the volumes of people driving MHs to campgrounds across the country, it would be easy to look at the sheer size of the vehicles and determine that the average person driving one would result in an unsafe condition. They are big and the look complex to handle. When you couple that with drivers like me, whose reflexes certainly aren't what they once were, it looks really bad. My point was that it doesn't seem to turn out bad. Another point that I considered for my original post was the number of pristine looking MHs. Yes, I understand that there are body shops that can fix damage and that the financial status of MH owners may cause any repairs made in a timely fashion. But if the average MH driver were really that bad, one would expect to see frequent body damage, especially given the obstacle and tree laden destinations that many of us frequent.
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Old 01-16-2009, 04:39 PM   #4
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I share your view of MH/RV drivers; attentiveness, and a cognitive awareness of one's abilities have a positive impact on us "older" drivers. I am aware of my increased "alertness" when towing our 5er, vs simply driving my truck around empty. It's like my mind shifts gears to the vastly different driving factors involved.
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:41 PM   #5
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My intent was to point out that many first-timers have little concept of the capabilities of a motorhome. They should at least recieve some bench training from the dealer before they are turned loose on the road.
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Old 01-16-2009, 07:36 PM   #6
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I am surprised that RV dealers will let you behind the wheel of a very big MH and never ask if you have driven anything this size before. When I was shopping for our first Class A the dealer handed me the keys and said let's go.
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Old 01-16-2009, 08:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
When I was shopping for our first Class A the dealer handed me the keys and said let's go.
We had the same thing happen. I did ask the dealer to at least get it out of the crowded lot for me but after that, I was pretty much on my own.

I fully agree that it would have been a lot better to have had more guidance and perhaps even several hours of instruction. The fact was that, in our area, that kind of instruction was not available (I did look diligently for it.)

30K miles and 5 years later, we have gone everywhere we wanted to, through major cities, down steep hills (I still shudder about Palo Duro Canyon SP) and all without incident. While I've had most of the 7K mile Class C rental experience under my belt along with more U-Haul rentals than I care to remember, DW has driven our MH without very much experience and has done just fine. Based on my understanding of the statistics, we are not alone in our experiences. Someone once suggested that it takes 100K miles of experience on a type of vehicle to be competent on it. When I first heard it, I laughed. Now, I'm more convinced than ever that it might be accurate. I certainly, in the miles that we have already driven, have not seen all of the marginal conditions that it would take to declare myself competent on our particular kind of rig. I also convinced, however, that a contrived test or sent of written questions is not going to fill that void. It would be a very unique type of testing environment that could actually put the average MH driver through enough unusual conditions to really test his or her capabilities. IMHO, anything less than that serves little purpose. I hope that I never have to find out how it feels to fully engage our ABS brake system, have the MH slide in wet conditions or see how short we can really stop in a panic situation. Like the Hudson landing of the airplane, it is the ability to really handle our machines in the extremes that separates the really good drivers from the rest of us who are still trying to learn.
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Old 01-17-2009, 12:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by wthomas1:
I am surprised that RV dealers will let you behind the wheel of a very big MH and never ask if you have driven anything this size before. When I was shopping for our first Class A the dealer handed me the keys and said let's go.
Sales people do not want to do anything that will have the potential buyer second think. They are hoping for an impulse buyer to fall out of the sky and into their lap.
I have not seen it all but I have seen more than most ever will.
Even after the closing, the dealers don't offer to train new owners how to operate them on the road. I am guessing they think it make them liable and it might to some small extent.
Sometimes in the past, I have seen just the opposite; customers sent out in unsafe conditions, just to get them "across the curb". I have left dealerships for this kind of mentality too!

I have seen that most damaged coaches coming in for repairs are not the older generation but the baby boomer generation and younger! I connect this to distractions and lack of experience (even hearing stories around the campfire) of situations that come from many years of living the lifestyle.

It would not surprise me to see an insurance company insure a coach and customer not properly licensed. Then when they have an accident where they are cited for this infraction, the insurance company refuses to pay for repairs to their own coach and cancels their policy.

I think this (greed and risk taking) is the reason we as a nation are in the bad economic condition we are in today. Eventually it all catches up with you. Some get bonuses, some go to jail and some die as a result. The difference is ...?
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Old 01-17-2009, 04:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Even after the closing, the dealers don't offer to train new owners how to operate them on the road. I am guessing they think it make them liable and it might to some small extent.
That's a great point, Mike. I can see it now: a new MH owner gets into a wreck and then sues the RV dealer because he or she wasn't taught everything that there is to know about properly operating a MH in an hour's worth of dealer sponsored instruction. The sure is a good reason not to do it.

In spite of the negatives, I still feel that, as a class of drivers, RV operators are one of the safer groups on the road. Sure, there is a lot of room for improvement. There is no discounting the need for better information and specific vehicle type instruction. Personally, I'll take my chances with a very novice MH driver rather than a car load of teen aged girls where the driver has a cell phone in her hands.
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Old 01-17-2009, 06:17 AM   #10
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I sense a lot of "There ought to be a law" or "Someone else should do something" sentiment here. Those who are sincerely concerned get the training and education they feel they need. Others just "Do It." Pick a subject, any subject and I believe you could make the same argument. The insurance companies certainly have the most pertinent accident and liability information even if they do not publish it. They are in the business to make a profit and they generally will not insure a known or questionable risk without an appropriate premium.
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Old 01-17-2009, 08:08 AM   #11
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One option would be to drive 5000 miles across country to the next RV rally to take the 2 hr how to drive it course
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Old 01-17-2009, 09:28 AM   #12
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I sense a lot of "There ought to be a law" or "Someone else should do something" sentiment here
Not from me. While I agree that there could be an improvement, the last thing I want is any governmental programs or intervention to address the matter. I find the non-CDL Class A and B requirements in Texas to be "less than robust" and fear more of the same if the program were expanded to lighter coaches.

Part of the discussion is based on concerns raised about some of us being unwilling to drive our RVs "with the flow of traffic." From there it seemed to lean towards the lack of training or necessary skills to handle the RV as the reason behind being unwilling to drive faster. For me, there is some of that. I get really white knuckled in heavy cross winds, especially at higher speeds. I'm just not sure that anything besides more experience driving under those conditions is going to make any difference. Given a choice, I'll pull off and wait. Sometimes, it isn't a choice and the only option is to "gut it out" at lower speed. My experience is that it is during those times that I get the one finger salute.
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Old 01-17-2009, 01:22 PM   #13
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My RV Dealer even went as far as to say I didn't need a differant license to operate a motorhome. I think we all know here he was wrong. I tried to explain to him that I did. His remark was, "people drive them off this lot all the time with just a passenger car license".
After my purchase the Secretary Of States office was my next stop.
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Old 01-17-2009, 05:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by chasfm11:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">I sense a lot of "There ought to be a law" or "Someone else should do something" sentiment here
Not from me. While I agree that there could be an improvement, the last thing I want is any governmental programs or intervention to address the matter. I find the non-CDL Class A and B requirements in Texas to be "less than robust" and fear more of the same if the program were expanded to lighter coaches.

Part of the discussion is based on concerns raised about some of us being unwilling to drive our RVs "with the flow of traffic." From there it seemed to lean towards the lack of training or necessary skills to handle the RV as the reason behind being unwilling to drive faster. For me, there is some of that. I get really white knuckled in heavy cross winds, especially at higher speeds. I'm just not sure that anything besides more experience driving under those conditions is going to make any difference. Given a choice, I'll pull off and wait. Sometimes, it isn't a choice and the only option is to "gut it out" at lower speed. My experience is that it is during those times that I get the one finger salute. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>


One must never feel an obligation to increase speed to avoid the "finger" or to accomodate other's need to speed.To do so results in crashes in fog and other bad conditions.Really,that speed-up mentality is what motivates the teen-aged driver and most of us are past that stage.Our obligation is to not endanger ourselves or other's.
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