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Recreational vehicle accidents: wider RVs not always better

Two centuries ago, westward travelers passing through what was then part of West Virginia on their way to Ohio likely used wagons of some sort pulled by oxen or maybe horses. Everything these travelers owned was piled on board and could be easily accessed at days end or if weather suddenly called a halt to progress. Nowadays, the modern traveler through West Virginia has something similar in the recreational vehicle with the exotic name suggesting a vision quest or mountain breeze. Even better, the wanderer has on-board amenities that a long-ago ancestor could scarcely imagine. But, like the pioneer of old, one thing is still certain: a recreational vehicle accident could be waiting just around the bend.

The modern problem is that these recreational vehicles are enormous. Even with sophisticated braking systems and enhanced driver visibility, quickly stopping one of these vehicles quickly is difficult. And, their width makes them obstacles to other vehicles, creating traffic hazards on even the widest roads. For this reason, 12 states, including West Virginia, prohibit these vehicles from traveling on state roads, keeping them on federal interstate highways or certain connecting state roads.

The problem began when the federal government increased the width limit on vehicles traveling on U.S. highways and interstates to 8 1/2 feet (102 inches) from the previous 8 feet (96 inches). Manufacturers quickly took advantage of the extra width and added a slew of features. Most, however, did not pay heed to state width limits, so the vast majority of RVs are limited to federal roadways.

The prospect of injuries or fatalities from a recreational vehicle accident is not the only worry of recreational vehicle owners. The owner of one of these vehicles should also be aware that they may be violating state law by traveling on a restricted road, which can give a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit more teeth.

Source:, "Is Your RV Too Wide To Legally Be On The Road Without An Oversized Load Permit?," accessed on March 14, 2015

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