Driving a motorhome isn’t any more difficult for a woman than it is for a man.
By Donna Mollan
It was a hot August afternoon, and I was eager to get outside. Picking up my bat and glove, I ran out to the neighborhood sandlot for a game of baseball with the other kids. Today, the baseball players were all boys. As I approached the field, I heard their comments.
“A girl?” “Girls can’t play ball!” they jeered. “I don’t want her on our team!”
Within five minutes, I came up to bat. The first ball was low and outside. “Girls can’t hit!” sneered one of my teammates. I said nothing. When the second pitch crossed the plate, it met my bat squarely. The ball sailed over the hedge and out of sight. As I calmly rounded third on my way to home, I couldn’t help but retort, “Girls can, too!”
I again found myself in the minority in college math and science classes, but I completed the courses with top grades. Girls can, too!
Following my brothers and husband into the hobby of amateur radio, I heard that this was a man’s hobby. I learned the Morse code and radio theory quickly and earned my FCC license on the first try. Girls can, too!
In the world of RVing, I have heard many myths about certain tasks that are said to be gender-specific. Many women have commented that driving their motorhome would intimidate them. They fear that their husbands would criticize their driving and that operating a motorhome is not a feminine thing. Actually, driving a motorhome is just as easy for a woman as it is for a man. Most of us have driven a car since our teen years, so the transition to a motorhome takes just a bit of additional training, and a woman can find the experience to be very enjoyable. I was the primary driver of our 35-foot motorhome for years.
Being shorter than one’s husband does not mean a woman can’t drive her motorhome. My height has little to do with the basic techniques that I use when driving our cars and our RV. Sitting high in our home on wheels is actually better in some ways, as it affords me the opportunity to see traffic far ahead. It is something that I have difficulty doing in my small car.
Of course, a motorhome is much longer, but this should not scare females away from driving any more than it does males. With power assisted steering and brakes, it takes no additional muscle power. I am not timid when driving my sports car, so why should I be afraid to drive a motorhome? Remember, ladies, this is not the early 1900s, when people had to hand-crank vehicles before traveling. Plus, driving vehicles with big engines does not make us less feminine.
There are many benefits to piloting our motorhome. First, it gives our copilot a needed break and a chance for him to enjoy the scenery as we travel.
Second, it is essential that we know how the motorhome operates and handles in case an emergency occurs and our husbands are unable to drive.
I have spoken to a number of fellow female RVers about the necessity to drive their vehicles occasionally so that they will have the confidence to do so if they need to. I don’t know how many times I have heard a woman who has never been behind the motorhome wheel say, “I know that I could drive our coach if I were called to do so in an emergency.” I have warned them that a stressful situation, such as a medical emergency, is not the time to learn how to drive a 40-foot vehicle. I encourage all women to practice and learn the techniques of driving and parking their motorhome safely now, before an emergency forces them behind the wheel.
And speaking of parking the motorhome, I have heard many comments from RVers, mostly male, expressing their surprise to see me parking our coach in the campground. As I began to back into our assigned spot, I would get one of two different reactions from the male spectators: either they would run and hide, or they would feel it necessary to give me instructions as to how to turn the steering wheel and back up. I don’t see these males doing the same thing when another man pulls into the campground.
My husband, John, and I have established
a series of signals to use while parking, much like other couples. But unlike other couples, I am the one behind the wheel, and John is the one giving me directions, either with hand signals or via two-way radios that we use. Actually, he quite enjoys this parking procedure, for he jokes that this is the only time that I follow his directions without question.
Getting Comfortable Behind The Wheel
A number of methods can be used to learn how to operate your home on wheels. The most obvious, and many times the most difficult, is to have your spouse teach you. If you choose this method, pick a quiet, empty parking lot at a school, church, or shopping mall (when they are not open), and get behind the wheel.
Try some turns to determine the turning radius necessary for your vehicle. Also, learn where all of the controls are located and what each one does. For example, it is imperative to learn how to use those outside mirrors correctly, as they are one of the most important safety features on motorhomes and should become a natural part of driving.
RV driving courses also are available. Some are much more involved and require additional time in one location, but others can be taken as you travel. FMCA international conventions offer excellent driving seminars (see sidebar). These sessions will give you some classroom experience and help you gain confidence. That way, you can become part of your driving team in much the same way that many couples work together to drive those big-rig tractor-trailers.
If you feel more comfortable taking lessons from a woman who is a professional experienced in driving large vehicles, call a local school district and ask whether any of their female school bus drivers is an instructor. These women drive large buses throughout cities and rural areas every day, and many would love the opportunity to teach you the techniques while making some extra money on their weekends or vacations.
Once you have mastered the techniques needed for driving a large RV and have practiced on quiet, empty roads and parking lots, I’m sure you will experience the pleasure of being behind the wheel. You’ll realize that driving a motorhome is just one more aspect of life that makes you proud to say, “Girls can, too!” So, come on, ladies, get behind the wheel!
RV Driving School
You can spend two days, four hours a day, behind the wheel of your motorhome learning how to drive it with instruction from the RV Driving School. According to owner Dennis Hill, classes are offered in various locations in Arizona, California, and Florida. For more information, contact:
RV Driving Safety Program
The RV Driving Safety Program is presented at FMCA international conventions by representatives of the Recreation Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF). This two-session classroom seminar provides RVers with information and tips to make their driving experience safer. Other major objectives are to increase driver awareness; identify individual driving abilities; help drivers to understand and identify their vehicles; and determine conditions that affect driving. Those who complete the program may be eligible for a discount on their insurance premiums, depending on their state of residence. For more information, check FMCA’s upcoming events, or contact: