Ask Chuck The RV Insurance Expert

December 6, 2011
Dear Chuck,

My wife and I have decided to take a trip in our RV down south for the winter. Unfortunately, we’re leaving a week too late and will likely hit a pretty bad snow storm with sleet and ice. Are there any precautions we should take as we begin our trek south?


Dear Snowbird,

Driving motorhomes and pulling travel trailers are very different experiences than driving the family van. If you must travel during a storm, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Assemble a winter emergency kit that contains a blanket, boots, shovel, nonperishable food and a flashlight. Pack a first aid kit with bandages, disinfectants, gauze, latex gloves, alcohol pads, scissors and tweezers.

• Be cautious when braking in icy conditions. Coast over ice and brake after reaching bare pavement. Brake gently in a pulsing fashion, and try to avoid slamming on the brakes. Many motorhomes behave differently than a car does in slick conditions. Make sure you understand the braking characteristics of your vehicle and how it will act on slick roads. If you have an electric trailer braking unit, it should be adjusted for driving on slick roads. Also, make sure you’ve adjusted your brakes to assist, but not lock, in the driving conditions.

• Remember that motorhomes are rear wheel drive (vs. front wheel drive passenger cars). Therefore, be sure you leave plenty of extra space between you and other drivers. If you begin to slide, steer toward the slide direction and pump your brakes lightly.

• If you’re towing a trailer and have an anti-sway bar or load diverting unit in place, make sure you understand how your vehicle performs in the snow and ice. Finally, ensure that you have winterized the unit if you are travelling through freezing conditions. Just because the heater is on in your motorhome doesn’t mean your pipes won’t freeze under the unit while you’re driving. To avoid having your pipes freeze, put a little biodegradable antifreeze in the pipes and water storage areas.

It’s best to avoid icy conditions while pulling a trailer. While winter is a wonderful time to camp with the family and enjoy the outdoors, make sure you leave yourself enough time to safely arrive at your destination and have the supplies you need to ensure you can wait out bad weather.

If you follow these tips but still find yourself in a crash, just remember that what you do after an accident can make a big difference in keeping everyone safe and in helping you and your insurance company work through a claim.

After an accident, make sure you:

• Stay safe. Make sure your RV and any other vehicles are as far off the roadway as possible. In the event you can’t get your vehicle off the roadway, try to signal traffic that there has been a loss. Put your hazard signals on, leave your lights on, and place safety triangles, flares or other markers in place to alert oncoming traffic of your situation.

• Call the police to report the accident. Even if you just had a fender bender, call the police so they can document who was involved; they’ll decide whether an accident report is necessary.

• Exchange vital information with the other driver. Write down the name, address, phone number, and license numbers of all drivers and witnesses. Ask for the name of their insurer and policy number. Your insurer might need to speak with them.

• Contact your insurance company and report the claim. The sooner your insurance company knows about the accident, the sooner it can start working to resolve your claim.

Remember: If the snow or ice gets really bad, safely pull off the road as soon as possible and wait until the weather has passed and the roads have been cleared. If you are stuck in a storm, what better place to be than in your RV with some blankets, friends and family. Safe travels.

Chuck Mozingo enjoys RVing with his wife, two kids and their dog, Scout. They RV near their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, along with their favorite spot, Williwaw Campground in Whittier, Alaska. When RVing, Chuck can’t live without his iPod, s’mores and family thumb war tournaments. When he’s not hitting the open road, Chuck is the RV Product Manager for Progressive Insurance, where he has worked for nearly 20 years.