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Old 06-10-2009, 09:00 AM   #1
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RV Safety - an illusion?

A couple of events this past week triggered my thinking about this subject. The PGA player whose brother and girlfriend were killed in a MH accident after a front tire blowout and a TT demolished by an 18 wheeler in Alabama drive home a sobering point, at least to me: RVing can be dangerous. The real question is what do you do about it.

As I poked around our own MH, I quickly recognized that the front cap has almost no structural intregrity in a frontal crash. If we hit anything with any force, the driver and passenger, whether belted in or not, are probably toast. I have next to zero confidence that any kind of even a parital rollover would maintain the structural integrity of the body, putting everyone inside at risk, regardless of seatbelts or position. The stuff (cabinets, chairs, etc) is just not fastened to anything substancial enough to withstand any real amount of force.

With thoughts like that, you might expect me immediately get rid of our MH. The fact is that many things that we do carry as much or even greater risks than riding in a MH. Perhaps I've succumbed to too much business analysis but to me, it comes down to risk mitigation. I cannot eliminate risks but I can understand them and try to minimize the likelyhood or impact.
1. For tires (and potential blowouts), I'm paranoid about keeping correct air pressures even in storage and replacing the tires every 5 years. I weighed all 4 corners, set the pressures accordingly and periodically check the axle weights, just to make sure that loading of the RV hasn't dramatically changed anything.
2. For collisions, I work hard to keep a buffer of space around me while driving, front and back. I watch far ahead and try to anticipate pending problems. I actively move away from drivers exhibiting agressive or reckless actions and pull my flashers on when I see congestion ahead, particularly on the interstates. I'm watchful in cases where vehicles are approaching rapidly from the rear.

I've enjoyed downhill skiing for years and have never worn a helmut. I consider that activity to be far more risky than driving in our MH. There, too, risk mitigation would tell me to ski in control, and do things like not take the last run (because it is usually on that one, where you are tired and where you lack the physical control to stay safe.) It seems to me that many somewhat risky activities (rock climbing, quad riding, etc) can have the associated risks mitigaged - through prudence and common sense. There are always inherient risks that you must be accepted, however.

Thoughts?
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Old 06-10-2009, 09:26 AM   #2
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Charlie,

Your comments regarding the structural configuration and safety of a typical Class A motorhome have led us to consider a Super C configuration such as the following if/when we move from the truck and 5th wheel:



Having said that, I have ridden motorcycles since I was 8 years old and currently ride a 2007 BMW K1200GT - a 152 BHP, 150+ MPH sport touring bike. Is there risk associated with that activity? Certainly, but I mitigate that risk by riding defensively and sanely (just because the bike can go 150+ MPH doesn't mean I have to ride it that fast) and subscribing to ATGATT (all the gear all the time - helmet, boots, armored jacket and pants, gloves, etc). Despite all that, can something happen that is beyond my control with catastrophic results? Again, certainly, but having done all I can reasonably do, I've decided that the rewards of that particular activity outweigh the risks. As I get older and lose more physical acuity, I'll have to face the day when that's no longer the case - when that day comes, I guess I'll hang it up.

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Old 06-10-2009, 09:30 AM   #3
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First your greatest danger on the road is cars, not semi's or other large vehicles, it's cars, and you are ABOVE most cars in many motor homes, this adds safety

As for tires... Well, yes they blow, and if you are a standard driver your first reaction to a blown tire (STANDING ON THE BRAKES WITH BOTH FEET) is #1 on the DO NOT list

There is a very good video, it was Produced by Mitchlin as I recall, and it's shown at FMCA RV-Safety training courses.. You can download it (The thread may be titled "Watching these videos could save your life"

In my life, at one time or another, I've blown (one at a time) every tire on my car or trailer. I've popped at least one at over 80 MPH. and I've NEVER lost control of the car as a result.. Popped many at the double nickel some due to road debris (One of those gave me issues but I managed to keep it between the lines Blasted 4x4 off a truck)

And even after that, I learned from those videos

I highly recommend them
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Old 06-10-2009, 09:39 AM   #4
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The human mind is an amazing thing. Risk is everywhere, all the time. Nothing is risk free. The social and personal acceptance and rationalization of risk is a fascinating and bewildering study.

We think nothing of driving our cars (a person dies every 13mins in the USA in a car crash). The risks of smoking, no exercise, overeating, alcohol, etc.are also proven and seem to be widely assimilated and largely ignored in everyday life. The social reaction to events that seem to rock our belief of safety (i.e. rogue gunmen) defies all statistical logic. What makes each of us "feel" safe is our own personal and often fact defying choice. We each have our rituals to deal with risk whether we realize do them or not. The power and comfort of "it happens to the other guy" on selected life events is simply profound and defies all science.

To be real, who is prepared to wear full helmet, fire suit, horse collar restraint, a 5 point seat belt and the like as well as pay for on board fire suppression, roll bars, and the like to drive a car/MoHo? We say life is priceless, and we can save countless lives by paying (in terms of hassle and cost) to install/use all these devices. And we simply do not do it. Go figure. The human mind and our individual perception of the world and risks around us is an amazing and seldom fact based thing.

I do what you do when driving the MoHo, which is pretty much all I can - within "reason" for cost/hassle - to decrease that risk. I fully recognize that my day will come, guaranteed, but until then, I'll do what I knowingly can and within my personal tolerance to do those things to prolong the arrival of that day. Heck, risk is really all part of the "thrill" now isn't it????

I'd like to see RV fatality rates in terms of lives/mile, it would be interesting to see how it compares to car lives/mile.

Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes.
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:23 AM   #5
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I am not a statistician or a motor vehicle fatality expert. I make no claim that the following is anything other than my own personal opinion...


I too had major concerns about the structural integrity of a class A. There is simply not the same kind of protective cage that a passenger car has. This worried me, and I decided to undertake a personal study of Motorhome fatalities. Unfortunately that data was not readily available so I embarked on a fairly detailed analysis of FARS (Fatal Accident Records System) data from the NHTSA. You can find the results of my personal study here. RV Crash Analysis - Safety Statistics

The following is the summary:


Summary:
The revised FARS analysis shows that a total of 212 individuals perished in motorhome accidents in the years 2000-2007 for an average of just over 26 fatalities per year. This represents an average rate of fatality of 0.44 per 100 Million Vehicle Miles vs. 1.48 for all vehicles in the United States, or roughly one third the average rate of all motor vehicles. (See Chart "Fatality Mileage Normalization Chart")

Observations:
1) The "Initial Harmful Event" which is the event deemed to have caused the crash, was overwhelmingly due to striking another vehicle in "your" roadway (45%). That can mean a vehicle traveling the same direction of a divided highway, or a vehicle traveling in either direction of an undivided road. Vehicle Roll-over, Striking a Guard Rail, and Striking a Tree, each represented approximately 9% of total crashes respectively. (See Chart "Initial Harmful Event")
2) The majority of fatalities occurred in the front seats of the motorhome, with 80% being either the driver or passenger. Of the 26 rear compartment fatalities, only 2 persons died while using a restraint (seat belt). No children using child safety seats died during the analysis period. (See Chart "Fatalities by Seating Position and Restraint Usage).
3) Alcohol did not appear to be a significant contributor to motorhome fatalities. (Less than 1% reported drinking as a factor)
4) The majority of fatalities occurred on rural interstates and/or major rural highways (54%). (See Chart "Road Type")
5) Trailers of any type were only reported in 26 of 212 fatalities during the study period. Of those, only 3 were reported as towed vehicles, however that statistic was only added to the database in 2005 and is therefore statistically irrelevant. (See Chart "Fatality by Reported Trailer Use")

Conclusion:
It is difficult to come to any supportable conclusions about accident causation, however, what it is clear that motorhomes are statistically very safe relative to the overall vehicular population. What limited fatal crashes do occur appear to be largely caused by striking other vehicles and fixed objects near the roadway and the resulting fatalities seem to most often occur in the front seat. Given that there were only 26 reported deaths of individuals in the rear area and only 2 of those were belted, one can draw their own conclusion about the merits of using a belt. This author draws solace in the fact that not a single child in a child safety seat perished during the study period.

I will continue to review the information and attempt to draw out any possible nuance in the information that the readers here might find useful, but I am comfortable myself in the knowledge that the activity is statistically quite safe. I am also pleased to conclude that some exaggerated media claims of motorhomes being "death traps" that I have read are simply and astoundingly false.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:17 PM   #6
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Perhaps the easiest way to assess your risk is by what it costs for insurance.

I encounter much speculation about risk and liability in 'discussions' about such things as weight ratings and hitch rigging and, when I ask for data and reasoned arguments supporting expressed viewpoints, I get personal attacks and anger. Actually seeing good data and reasoning as offered here is a rare breath of fresh air.

Maybe there is hope yet for civilization! ;-)

I remember one referral to an old rule of thumb - 'he who has the most lugnuts wins in a crash' - what that means is that, since a motorhome is heavier and bigger than most other vehicles on the road, the motorhome is likely to 'win' in most crashes and be the safer vehicle.

The conclusions fit with what I have seen in the crash reports at the NV DOT website: Driver diligence is the major cause of crashes. I think it should also be noted that there is a bit of bias in looking only at fatality crash data as vehicle safety is raising the bar on how severe a crash has to be to create fatalities.

re "media claims of motorhomes being "death traps" that I have read are simply and astoundingly false." - we have a plague in this area I think and it is much broader than simply this issue.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:27 PM   #7
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And risk is not just the likelihood or the severity of a crash, it's the two combined. So a horrendous crash that only occurs once in millions of miles may be the same overll risk to the RVing public as a frequent crash that causes only mild injury (to a lot more people, to be sure).
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa View Post
And risk is not just the likelihood or the severity of a crash, it's the two combined. So a horrendous crash that only occurs once in millions of miles may be the same overll risk to the RVing public as a frequent crash that causes only mild injury (to a lot more people, to be sure).
Very true. Perhaps someone can continue my research and dive deeper into injury accidents as well. I would be eager to see that information.

Since my greatest fear, and I believe many share this, is the death of a loved one, my research focused on that issue.

I am hopeful that RVIA or FMCA or another organization will fund better, more accurate research into this issue someday. Unfortunately, there appears to be a bit of "don't ask, don't tell" going on with industry groups and manufacturers.
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Old 06-10-2009, 01:05 PM   #9
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please, let's not get into conspiracy theories. It is the governmental agencies that compile and summarize traffic incidents. See, for instance, the page Nevada Traffic Crashes with separate forms for engineering, media, and citizen data requests.

As noted, RV's just aren't in that many incidents much less those that are caused by some RV specific issue. That makes drawing any meaningful inference rather difficult.

Read the introduction to the 2006 report for a summary of some of this issues involved. The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria Website (Transportation Research Board) looks to also have some good information.

It is too easy to let fears become irrational. You can do very little about someone who is too busy sending text messages and wanders into your lane. You can do a lot to make sure your rig is road ready and that you are an alert and careful driver. RVing is safer than many other avocations. It deserves proper care and concern but it doesn't deserve fear and doubt about safety. Perhaps the most unsafe thing you can do is to get on the road in a fearful state of mind.
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Old 06-10-2009, 05:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Posted by chasfm11
1. For tires (and potential blowouts), I'm paranoid about keeping correct air pressures even in storage and replacing the tires every 5 years. I weighed all 4 corners, set the pressures accordingly and periodically check the axle weights, just to make sure that loading of the RV hasn't dramatically changed anything.
chasfm11, I do everything you state here for tires including checking pressure every travel day. I still had a right front blow out of a tire that was 2 years old and looked almost new, great tread, no cracks etc. What saved me, besides knowing what to do in case of blow out, was my Safe-T-Plus which I've mentioned before on this forum. I heard the explosion but never really felt the tire even though it exploded and took most of the side panel with it. No, I don't have anything to do with the company, but that blow out sold me on the product so much I encourage all my family and friends to get one. If I ever get a toad, one will go on that too.

My point is you can do all the right things concerning your tires (or any thing else) but it doesn't guarantee you won't have a blow out. We hope it greatly diminishes the chances but of course there are no guarantees on the road. We do the best we can on all fronts and to be safe. Like others said there isn't much we can do about other drivers. Don't let fear rule your life.
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:22 AM   #11
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Wow there is some interesting info in this thread

Alcohol was a factor in less than 1% of the fatal accidents: IN cars it is considered to be THE causative factor in half of them and may be a factor (Contributing if not causative) in as many as 90%.. Sounds like we are a sober group. This is a very good thing.

RVdude said
Quote:
To be real, who is prepared to wear full helmet, fire suit, horse collar restraint, a 5 point seat belt and the like as well as pay for on board fire suppression, roll bars, and the like to drive a car
(I very intentionally cut it off there) Mario Andretti and others like him is the answer

Back to the statistics Of those who were wearing seat belts in the rear, only 2 deaths. That's good I've said for years that seat belts save lives (40 of them, I put seat belts in my first car)

It said the overwhelming initial event was striking another vehicle

I"d like to know how many times the Motor home was the striker, and how many tiems the strikee or to be more accurate "The At-Fault Vehicle"

I mean, if I"m busy tooling through a Green Light at 45MPH on Grand River in Detroit in the 45MPH zone and you are busy running the red light on Telegraph. I'm going to hit you.. but it's your fault (I witnessed that one, thankfully, Personal involvment limited to laying out the triangles to divert traffic around it. At-Fault was driving a FORD, I drive Chevy, Victim was in a Caddy)
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:33 AM   #12
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Unfortunately, all of the data is based on the responding officer's report, which has a series of standardized questions that must be answered. The data on "at fault" was not part of the database, and therefore is unknown.

As for alcohol, that statistic is related to the driver of the motorhome and could be misleading since it does not related to the other driver.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:18 AM   #13
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Another reason to consider a truck conversion. Safety is one of the reasons I bought mine.
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:37 AM   #14
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Another reason to consider a truck conversion. Safety is one of the reasons I bought mine.
Maybe you didn't read the posts...the information indicates Motorhomes are already three times safer on a deaths/mile basis than the average vehicle statistically. Truck conversions are great, don't get me wrong, but safety shouldn't be your main driver for that purchase.
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