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Sleep? Cook? Watch TV? What Can You Do While Driving Your RV?

Sleep? Cook? Watch TV? What Can You Do While Driving Your RV?

“Can you use the bathroom in an RV while driving?” If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard that question. People want to know if it’s safe and/or legal to do anything other than sit, seat-belted, in an RV while it’s rolling down the road.

Can you walk around, cook, watch TV, use the bathroom, or take a nap in bed while an RV is in motion? In today’s post, we’re discussing what you can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) do in an RV while cruising down the highway.

Can You Walk Around In an RV While Driving?

First, we do understand what people mean when they ask what you can do in an RV while driving. But we want to make it crystal clear that if you’re the one driving the RV, you can’t do much of anything besides drive!

Now that we’ve addressed that, let’s discuss what passengers can and can’t do in an RV when it’s in motion and what you need to consider when making these determinations.

First, safety is the number one priority when traveling in an RV. To that end, you need to consider the type of RV you have, seat belt laws where you’re located, and any other regulations regarding passengers.

Safety

Generally, no one should allow a passenger to ride in any towed camper (including truck campers) while it’s underway. Regardless of whether a state allows anyone to ride in a moving travel trailer, 5th wheel, or truck camper, we suggest there’s no good reason and it’s not worth the risk. And we won’t be allowing anyone to ride in our new Outdoors RV travel trailer.

There are just too many things that can happen while towing. And regardless of how safe we are as drivers, we can never predict what might happen on the road with other moving vehicles around us.

That said, as we mentioned in our post “Can You Ride In a Travel Trailer?” it’s actually legal in some states. We’ll get into those details below.

Insurance

If you have passengers riding in a trailer and there’s an accident, insurance may not cover it. That may also be the case if someone on board is injured during maneuvering, rounding a corner, driving over rough terrain, or even having something fall on them.

Many policies state that dangerous behavior disqualifies coverage. And some insurance companies may decide that riding in a moving camper that’s being towed down the road is dangerous.

Legalities

Many states have regulations that prohibit passengers from riding in moving towed trailers, especially travel trailers. These laws vary not only from state to state but also vary in detail. There are also laws related to traveling in any moving vehicle.

Seat Belt Laws

Most U.S. states and Canadian provinces mandate that all occupants of any vehicle traveling on a public roadway wear seatbelts. Others require that only the driver and front-seat passenger do so. Many of those require that children under a certain age riding in the back seat be buckled up as well.

Children unsecured while riding in an RV

Cute picture? Sure… as long as this RV isn’t underway. Here are two unsecured children and their unsecured pet. Not only could this family be violating seatbelt laws, but they’re also putting their precious passengers at risk.

Child Restraint Laws

Separate child restraint laws are in place in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and all five U.S. territories. This alone suggests that it’s not legal for children to ride in a vehicle of any type without complying with safety restraint laws.

5th Wheels & Travel Trailers

To learn what’s technically legal, you’ll need to check the specific safety regulations in the states you’ll be traveling through. According to this report from the RVIA, the following states allow passengers to ride in travel trailers and/or 5th-wheel trailers:

  • Arizona
  • California (fifth wheels only)
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana (fifth wheels only)
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York (fifth wheels only)
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota (fifth wheels only)
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon (fifth wheels only)
  • Pennsylvania (fifth wheels only)
  • South Dakota (fifth wheels only)
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin (fifth wheels only)

Note that RV manufacturers are only required to supply seat belts for the front passengers, but not for any rear occupants who may be traveling in the rig. So, what does this mean regarding the question of whether it’s legal to ride in a travel trailer if many or most travel trailers don’t have seatbelts or child seat restraints? Specific child safety restraint laws dictate how children must be secured in moving vehicles, so riding in a travel trailer may not comply with these laws anywhere.

Truck Campers

Again, the laws vary from state to state, but in many states, passengers are allowed to ride in a truck camper (a camper attached to the bed of a pickup truck).

Having passengers ride in a truck camper should be legal in every state in the country EXCEPT:

  • Arkansas
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

Note that there are other details to be aware of regarding truck campers. For example, some states require that a truck camper have safety glass or access to the truck’s cab and/or that passengers be at least 13 or 14 years of age.

Motorhomes

If you have a motorhome, it’s much easier to do certain things while your rig is cruising down the highway, since everything is right there with you all in one space, and stand-up height is typical. But whether it’s legal to get up and walk around depends on the local seatbelt laws where you’re traveling. Again, some states have stricter seat belt laws than others, so you need to know the laws in the states where you travel.

From a safety standpoint, all passengers should be seated and belted whenever the motorhome is rolling down the road, regardless of the law.

Also, walking around in a moving RV isn’t generally a good idea for anyone who gets motion sick. On that note, it’s a good idea to have some solutions on hand when you’re traveling.

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So, even if there are a few things you can safely do while your RV is driving down the road, staying seated and belted is optimal for both safety and legal reasons.

Can You Use the Bathroom In an RV While Driving?

Again, we’re all expected to follow local laws wherever we’re driving. So, in states where you can unbuckle your seatbelt, you may be able to use the bathroom in your RV while it’s being driven down the road.

In states where you’re prohibited from being in a moving motor vehicle without wearing a seatbelt, you’re required to pull the rig over at a safe place to stop to use the bathroom, such as a rest area.

Can You Cook In an RV While Driving?

Can you? Maybe. Should you? Probably not. While it’s possible to use certain cooking methods while your rig is underway, cooking is best left for a time when your rig is stopped and you’re in a safe place to use your propane stove, microwave, convection stovetop, etc.

Can you imagine having something hot on the stove and your rig hits a bump or the driver has to hit the brakes? Grabbing a snack from the fridge? Maybe. But we’d suggest that it’s a really bad idea to cook in an RV while driving, especially hot food.

Can You Watch TV In an RV While Driving?

Passengers can watch TV. Drivers should never do that, and even having a TV screen visible to the driver may be against the law. Many people, especially kids, watch TV or movies or play video games to pass the time while on road trips.

Teens playing a video game and watching TV on a phone

Passengers can watch TV and movies, or play video games while an RV is rolling down the road.

Can You Sleep In an RV While Driving?

Here again, as long as you’re a passenger (and not the driver!), you can certainly sleep in an RV while it’s driving down the road. But seatbelt and child restraint laws still need to be followed. In most cases, that means staying in your seat.

If you’re driving somewhere without seatbelt laws, you may be able to take a nap on a bed in your motorhome as it rolls down the road. But from a safety standpoint, the driver and all passengers should wear seatbelts anytime the rig is moving. And again, there’s that insurance issue.

Can You Drive In an RV With the Slide Out?

We know that 99.99% of RVers would never even ask that question, but just in case…

We sure hope this goes without saying, but you should never drive an RV with any RV slideout extended on any public road. Besides the fact that the rig would be too wide for the lane, there would be a dangerous reduction in visibility due to the sideview mirror being blocked. Also, when extended, the slides may not be held as firmly in place, and the added force/leverage of the weight could damage the mechanism.

For more information on a related subject, check out our post “Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner While Driving?” where we also address using an RV generator while driving. If you’re wondering about running your RV fridge on the road, our post “Can I run my RV refrigerator on propane while driving?” will answer that question, too.

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Gay Tacoma (Washington) Travel Enthusiast

Saturday 11th of May 2024

While I can certainly understand and appreciate the safety aspect, you want to make it to your destination alive and uninjured!, I've never understood why certain state and govt. laws are what they are. If nothing else, I would think it'd be okay to sleep either on the couch of the motorhome or in the seat next to you. I can't imagine being able to or allowed to cook or do other things while an RV is moving. You're going 50+ mph down Hiwy 5 between Seattle and Portland, or Seattle and Bellingham. While the road may seem smooth, it's anything but.

Gay Tacoma (Washington) Travel Enthusiast

Monday 13th of May 2024

@Mark, I agree. Some driver don't apply common sense when it comes to driving. Like most people, I have a mobile phone I use to call or leave a text message for someone. I always leave my phone on so that should someone need to get through to me, they can. I also leave the phone plugged into a charger to keep the battery usable. I also store my phone in a small compartment in my car so that I can get to it when I need it, but it's also where I can't be distracted from my driving.

Mark

Saturday 11th of May 2024

@Gay Tacoma (Washington) Travel Enthusiast, Lapse laws governing what can be done in a moving RV are most likely the result of lobbying of state governments by the RVIA. The RVIA has an interest in making RVing as fun as possible, even if it means compromising the safety of the passengers inside a moving RV. Unfortunately, one cannot count on RV owners to apply common sense and critical thinking to the safety of their passengers.

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