Is It Legal To Ride In A Travel Trailer

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An RV basically is a home on wheels, so it would make sense for you to be able to carry passengers in it, right?

Well, things aren’t as simple as you may be thinking.

Addressing the question of the legality of riding in a moving travel trailer or other RV types, there are no clear answers since rules differ across states. In some states, it is illegal to transport passengers in any kind of RV (aside from motorhomes), while in others, it is allowed but with some restrictions.

In this post, we are going to find out in which states riding in the back of an RV is allowed, as well as will address safety precautions that you should follow.

Is It Legal To Ride In A Travel Trailer?  State-by-state guide by RV types

Below is a state-by-state list of general regulations by RV types – travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers. This list indicates whether having passengers in the RV while driving is allowed or not.

State Travel Trailer 5th Wheel Truck Camper
Alabama No No Yes
Alaska No No Yes
Arizona Yes Yes Yes
Arkansas No No No
California No Yes* Yes*
Colorado No No Yes
Connecticut No No Yes
Delaware No No Yes
Florida No No Yes
Georgia No No Yes
Hawaii No No Yes**
Idaho No No Yes
Illinois No No Yes
Indiana Yes Yes Yes
Iowa Yes Yes Yes
Kansas Yes*** Yes*** Yes***
Kentucky No No Yes
Louisiana No No Yes
Maine No No No
Maryland Yes Yes Yes
Massachusetts No No Yes
Michigan Yes Yes Yes
Minnesota Yes Yes Yes
Mississippi Yes Yes Yes
Missouri Yes Yes Yes
Montana No Yes Yes
Nebraska Yes Yes Yes
Nevada No No Yes
New Hampshire No No No
New Jersey No Yes Yes
New Mexico No No Yes
New York No Yes Yes
North Carolina Yes Yes Yes
North Dakota No Yes Yes
Ohio No No Yes
Oklahoma No No Yes
Oregon No Yes* Yes
Pennsylvania No Yes* No
Rhode Island No No Yes
South Carolina No Yes* No
South Dakota No Yes* Yes
Tennessee No Yes Yes
Texas No No Yes
Utah No No Yes
Vermont No No Yes
Virginia No No Yes
Washington No No Yes
West Virginia No Yes Yes
Wisconsin No Yes* No
Wyoming No No Yes

* Communication between the driver and passengers in the RV is required.

** Only passengers older than 13 allowed.

*** Only passengers older than 14 allowed.

As you can see, there are huge differences regarding the legality of riding in a moving travel trailer from state to state. Some states allow riding in any kind of moving RV, others only allow it in certain types, a few place certain restrictions on RV riding, while three states – the states of Arkansas, Maine, and New Hampshire – don’t allow riding in a moving RV altogether.

Aside from age, some states may impose other requirements that you must follow when having passengers in a moving RV. For example, passengers may be required to be seated in appropriate passenger seats equipped with seat belts, while children have to ride in a federally approved child safety seat.

There may also be rules regarding the RV’s weight, size, brakes, turn signals, speed, lighting, mirrors, or hitch type. These may again differ from state to state, so make sure to consult local authorities to find out any specifics applicable to your state.

Keep in mind that regulations can change at any moment, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided above. To receive up-to-date information on regulations in your state, make sure to consult the local Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Transportation.

What about motorhomes?

Unlike towable RVs where the legality of riding in it while moving varies across the US, it is legal to ride in the back of a motorhome. A motorhome is a single vehicle, so many of the requirements applying to towable RVs do not apply to them.

However, there may still be some restrictions on the seating of passengers in a motorhome. Each state has varying laws regarding RV seat belts, for example. Usually, motorhomes (and essentially all other RV types) are required to have seat belts in the front passenger seats but not in the back seats.

In the end, while there are fewer restrictions imposed on motorhomes, there still are certain rules that you may have to follow in your state.

Safety precautions when transporting passengers in an RV

There are certain safety precautions that you need to follow even if they aren’t required in your state. For example, if passengers in the RV aren’t required to wear seatbelts, they nonetheless should do so to stay safe.

Below is a list of essential safety precautions that you should keep in mind when transporting anyone in your RV, be it a towable RV or a motorhome.

Have seat belts

Living-area furniture in towable RVs isn’t always equipped with seatbelts, and you may want to install them yourself if. Even if you don’t intend to have anyone seated in the sofas, you should still equip them with seatbelts just in case.

You should first determine which seats are the safest and prioritize them over others when mounting seatbelts and transporting passengers.

Ideally, you should have as many seats with seatbelts as there are passengers in your RV. This will ensure that everyone is safe and that no one is left out. Rear passenger seats aren’t always required to have seatbelts, but you should install them nonetheless to ensure the safety of your passengers.

Maintain communication

It is key that the driver and passengers maintain communication with one another while the RV is in motion. Again, you should do this even if it isn’t required in your state.

For example, the driver may alert the passengers that a bumpy road section is coming up, allowing those in the RV to take their seats and buckle up. Likewise, the passengers should be able to alert the driver if there is a problem and that the driver needs to pull over.

You may use a cell phone if there’s reception in your area or two-way radio to communicate with the passengers. Since reception can be bad in some places, consider having a way to visually communicate with the passengers.

Install safety glass

Many RVs do not come with shatterproof glass preinstalled. If you determine that the windows in your RV aren’t shatterproof, then you should install safety glass to ensure the safety of the RV passengers.

Safety glass is designed not to shatter into the RVs interior when a branch or another object hits the window. Glass can easily cause cuts on the skin or damage to the eyes, so you should not carry passengers in your RV if it doesn’t have shatterproof windows.

Do not allow children to stay alone

You should not allow children to ride in a towed RV without the supervision of an adult. RVs aren’t built as safe as automobiles, first of all, and appliances and other items in the RV can easily come loose and fall while you are driving. Children could accidentally get injured from objects flying around. Not only that, but they likely will be careless when riding in the RV alone.

Secure all objects in the RV

Speaking of loose objects, it is a good idea to secure all the items that may come loose or fall off while in motion. Adults sure can to some extent ensure the safety of children, but they themselves aren’t immune to items flying around the RV.

Keep all portable appliances in cabinets and make sure that the cabinets are tightly closed. If you have any carts or appliances with wheels, you need to lock the wheels and maybe even strap the appliance so that it doesn’t roll during the journey.

Do not leave pets in the RV

Just like it is with children, you should not leave your pets alone in the RV while it is in motion. They will have no idea what’s going on, and they may panic and get destructive. Even if you have your pet in a crate, do not leave them alone in the back of the RV.

Leave an emergency way out

Accidents do happen, unfortunately, and to make sure that the RV’s passengers can easily exit to safety, you need to consider leaving a couple of emergency exits for them.

For example, the RV doors should be unlocked while driving so that the passengers could easily leave in an emergency. While leaving the doors open may seem counterintuitive to safety, it can be disastrous to cut the passengers’ way to safety by locking the doors.

In addition to leaving the doors open, consider equipping the passengers with glass breakers so that they have an extra way of exiting the RV if the doors are blocked off. Make sure to get a good and reliable glass breaker that can easily break tempered glass. Some glass breakers can also slice through seatbelts, which also is a thing to look for.

Minimize movement in the RV

The freedom of movement in the RV may be tempting, but passengers shouldn’t give themselves too much freedom. The safest place in a moving RV is a passenger seat equipped with seatbelts, so passengers shouldn’t leave their seats unless it’s absolutely necessary.

This isn’t only a safety precaution – remember, in some states, passengers are required to wear seatbelts at all times while the RV is in motion, and not doing so would be a violation of state laws.

Do not sleep in the RV

You should not sleep in the RV while it is in motion. If you have to take a nap, then at least do so in a passenger seat while buckled.

First of all, sleeping in the bed, you won’t be secured in place by seatbelts like you would be in a safe passenger seat. 

Secondly, as we mentioned above, it would be a violation of the law not to wear seatbelts in a moving RV.

Thirdly, a sleeping person will not be able to react quickly to falling objects or avoid possible injury in the event of an accident or if the RV just hits a bumpy road. Sleeping in a moving RV greatly compromises your safety.

Do not use the bathroom while in motion

Likewise, it is unwise to use the bathroom while the RV in motion. While nothing prevents you from doing so, the bathroom is probably the worst place to be in in an accident. If you need to use the bathroom, then have the RV pull over so that you could do everything in safety. Plus, the driver will get a chance to have a short break!

Do not cook in a moving RV

Cooking in a moving RV is perhaps the most dangerous thing that one could do while on the road. Cooking in a confined area is dangerous on its own, let alone cooking when the RV is in motion. Plus, it’s inconvenient, so why even bother?

Should you even be in a moving RV?

With all of the above being said, should you even be in a moving RV in the first place?

We’d say that unless it is absolutely necessary, you shouldn’t be carrying passengers in a towable RV. If your tow vehicle has enough passenger seats, then all your companions should be with you in the car.

Aside from that, there is really no point in having people in an RV since it is unsafe to sleep, cook, or do anything in there aside from beating seated and buckled in a passenger seat. You may only watch TV or play video games in an RV, but only if you are safely seated, not to mention that you could set up a TV in your car if you have free room for it.

Things are a bit easier in motorhomes, but the same rules apply to them.

In the end, if riding in an RV is illegal in your state, do not try to game the system. And if it is allowed without any safety rules, then you should follow the safety precautions listed above nonetheless.

If you liked this article then take a look at our other RV how-to guides.