The Smartest Way to Avoid RV Wrecks and Disasters

Anyone with the cash can buy a recreational vehicle. Most can be driven on the street without any additional training. But if the owner hasn’t mastered the art of avoiding RV wrecks and disasters, all bets are off. Two RV driver education experts in the field explain why the price of a weekend RV driving school will cost you far less money and heartache than repairing a wrecked rig.

RV Driving without a G.O.A.L

Lots of us think we are good RV drivers, but even the most experienced RVer can stand to learn new techniques to lower their accident risk. My husband and I learned this lesson three years after we became full-time RVers.

We drove into the Utah Forest Service campground and found that perfect every RVer dreams about. It was so peaceful and scenic that we weren’t ready to leave on check-out day, so we extended our stay. But our holding tanks needed emptying and our water supply replenished, so we packed up and went to town. A couple hours later we returned to the same spot.

As always, I got out of the truck to guide my husband into the back-in site. But our rig was at an odd angle, which made the parking job a tedious chore. The large boulder on our truck’s right rear passenger side didn’t make things easier as he maneuvered back and forth to squeeze past the obstruction.

When I saw that he was getting too close and yelled to warn him, the throaty roar of our Dodge was louder than my screech. And before I could flail my arms to say “STOP!” the sickening crunch of metal on granite filled the air.

The Art of Avoiding RV Wrecks and Disasters

Was the accident preventable? Absolutely, according to Gary Lewis, founder of RV Basic Training. Lewis says we failed to follow a common sense parking strategy followed by commercial truckers everywhere. It’s known as the “G.O.A.L” –

Get Out And Look!

We neglected to walk around that spot to gauge the distance of the rock to our truck. Had we done so, our truck would still look brand new.

“How much simpler can you get?” says Lewis. “If every RV driver drove like a commercial driver you won’t get there with a problem.”



Ten years ago Lewis launched his school to help RVers avoid RV wrecks and disasters like ours. Since then, the enthusiastic instructor says he’s seen every kind of RV wreck under the sun. Usually people call him after an accident has happened, eager to get their confidence back and continue RVing.

Lewis and his cadre of 12 instructors (and growing) teach drivers all the basics of good RV driving skills, including:

Straight line backingOffset backingParallel parkingBackside backing

Through his hands-on training and RV Basic Training manual, Lewis gets students into the habit of thinking like commercial truckers whenever they’re behind the wheel. “You never move it without doing a safety check,” he says. “Do a walk around. Check underneath, look at the tires. Go clockwise and then counter clockwise to make sure you’re all clear. Are the doors secured? Any funny smells? Is everything put away? All commercial drivers do this.”

Objects are Always Closer Than They Appear

Most RV wrecks happen like ours did – a driver hits an object that is closer than it appears. George Mayleben, owner of RV Driving School, says other common RV wrecks often seen on the road include: