A horrific recreational vehicle crash killed five members of a Jordan, Minn., family this week while they were traveling home from a Texas vacation, providing a stark reminder for the need for extra safety procedures when driving these oversized vehicles.

As summer vacation time approaches, it’s a good time to review safety rules and special things to keep in mind when operating RVs, especially if you also are towing a trailer behind them.

In the accident that killed five members of the Kerber family when their RV plunged off a ravine on Interstate 35 near Williamsburg, Kansas, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “The motor home, which was actually a modified Freightliner box truck, was carrying the family back to their homes in Minnesota and pulling a trailer,” the paper reported.

RVs are larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road and require special safety precautions when operating them. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Grafissimo

A 17-year-old member of the family was driving the vehicle under a provisional driver’s license at the time of the crash, which also left 13 people injured, including several in critical condition according to a story on MSNBC.com. “Only two of the 18 people aboard were belted in, but it wasn’t clear if belts were available for those passengers riding in the trailer,” the story reported. “The large extended family was returning from a trip to see a motocross race when the accident occurred.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be reviewing the crash as the agency reviews laws that permitted the 17-year-old driver to operate4 the 57,000-pound vehicle, according to an Associated Press story.

“NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the agency wants to determine whether the driver, who was critically injured in the accident Sunday, was ‘legally able to drive’ such a large vehicle and whether the applicable laws and licensing requirements ‘could have played a role in this accident,’” the story reported. “This does seem to be quite an unusual circumstance, so we want to be able to understand all the issues that surround it. I don’t recall another accident involving a motor home with this many individuals injured or killed.”

Because they are so much longer, wider, taller and heavier than normal cars, SUVs and minvans, RVs require extra safety cushions on the road, from braking to accelerating to changing lanes. They have unique blind spots and take far more room to turn and maneuver on the road, in parking lots and in residential neighborhoods.

There are even RV training courses that operators can take to get professional help to learn how to safely operate the big rigs, according to The Fun Times Guide to RVing, an RV blog. Several companies, including RV Education 101, offer CDs and DVDs for sale with professional instruction on driving, loading and maintaining the vehicles.

One of the most important tips to remember is not to overload your RV before taking to the road, according to the FunRoads.com RV web site. Overloading is the leading cause of RV accidents, according to the group. “Even a slight overload or unequal weight distribution can seriously restrict braking and steering, dramatically increase fuel consumption, and cause sudden blowouts or breakdowns,” the site reported. “An overweight RV also creates the danger of early failure in your rig’s tires, brakes, wheels, drive train and other components.”

The RV Safety & Education Foundation offers detailed information on how to properly weigh your RV to ensure that it does not exceed its rated weight capacity before your trip.  Another source for helpful and detailed information on how excessive weight can affect the stability and operation of your RV comes from Gilbert RV Insurance Inc. in Orlando, Fla.

“More accidents are due to the failure of the driver to be comfortable with the RV, than a failure of the rig itself,” the Gilbert RV Insurance article reports. “Be conscious at all times of the RV’s height, width, length and weight, and be aware of blind spots and other limitations. Physically measure the dimensions of your RV, jot the figures down and tape them to your dashboard. Those dimensions must be respected to avoid overhead collisions or clipping other vehicles and objects. Always check clearances. When in doubt, get out and take a look.”

FunRoads.com also hosts a complete RV safety check list to be sure that all systems are in good operating condition before your trip.

If you are towing a trailer behind your RV, that adds even more complexity to your safety and it must be figured in to weight limits, driver skill and other factors.

The investigation into the fatal RV crash in Kansas will continue as the exact cause of the accident is sought by authorities.

In the meantime, the tragedy is a reminder to all of us to take the operation of large RVs very seriously and to use the utmost in caution and care when we drive them.

If you are ever in a serious motor vehicle accident, whether in a car, SUV, truck, RV or any other vehicle, the attorneys here at MyPhillyLawyer always stand by to discuss your case  with you and assist you in receiving the compensation you deserve to care of your injuries and pain and suffering.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.

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