there was a time when nobody wore seatbelts, children did not use a car seat and nobody ever wondered if it was legal to have passengers sit in the back of a camper or RV while driving.
All of these things seemed normal at one point in time. That also means accidents that resulted in major injuries were also normal.
Thankfully, laws and common sense have caught up, seatbelts and car seats are mandated and it is illegal to be in an RV while it is in motion. There are some exceptions to this of course, but more on that later.
To answer the title question of if it is legal to sleep in an RV while it is being driven, it is illegal to. You can’t sleep in an RV while it is in motion.
There is an exception and this is only if you can sleep sitting up, as the only place you are allowed to be is in a passenger seat.
There is a much larger reason behind this and it stems from the fact that you can’t be in an RV while it is in motion, unless it is a Class A to C motorhome that comes with seating that has been specifically created to be utilized while the vehicle is in motion.
So, being in an RV, much less sleeping in one while it is on the move is illegal. Think about it, an RV bed does not come with seatbelts and neither has it been designed to hold passengers while the RV is in motion. This does beg the question; why can’t anyone be inside an RV while it is in motion?
Reasons you can’t be inside a moving RV
- It is not safe
- Generally, it is not legal
- Towing won’t be done well
Why you shouldn’t be in a moving RV
All vehicles have been designed to carry occupants safely. The seats in a car or the cab of an RV have been specially designed to ensure passengers are safe. The seatbelts are there to restrain passengers and airbags in place to help keep passengers out of harm’s way.
The protection of a driver and passengers is an overarching theme in the design language of automobiles, so much so that today’s cars are created with special crumple zones that take the damage rather than passing on the force of an impact to the passengers.
You have probably heard older drivers say that today’s cars are not as sturdy as they used to be. The thinking behind this design is that it is much better for the car to suffer damage than passengers.
While this is applaudable, camper trailers and motorhomes have not been created in that way. It would surprise you to know that camper trailers haven’t been designed to have passengers. You cannot expect high-level impact protection from a vehicle with frames made from 2 by 2 thick lumber.
Motorhomes do not fare any better. The seats in the back have not been designed to carry passengers. The majority of these seats do not come with airbags or seatbelts and there are some that will most likely move when an impact happens.
While it might seem like fun sitting at the dinette table whilst the RV is in motion, it should not be done as it has not been created for it. If you plan to be in an RV while it is moving, you should ensure you only use a seat that comes with a seat belt and one that was specifically created to handle a crash.
Are there RVs and campers I can be in?
Legally, motorhomes are the only RVs that are capable of safely transporting passengers. So, this means a Class A, B, or C motorhome comes with seats in the back that have been designed to safely transport passengers.
One of the reasons for this is simply because when they are made, they are made to be able to withstand an accident. Additionally, they are the only RVs that come installed with seatbelts.
How to tell what class your RV is?
Class A Motorhome
This class of motorhome is the largest there is of the three classes. It can comfortable contain more persons than both Class B and C models, however, it can’t hold as many passengers as the two.
Class B Motorhomes
This class of RV is typically designed to carry 1 to 5 passengers at a time. A drawback is that while it can safely and legally travel with 5 people inside it, it does not have sufficient space to comfortably sleep 5 individuals.
Class C Motorhomes
A Class C RV is actually larger than a Class B, however, it is only able to safely carry 3 to 4 passengers at a time. Nevertheless, it can comfortably sleep 4.
RV specific Driving Regulations
Given that there is some confusion between what you can or can’t do in an RV, it makes perfect sense to highlight the numerous driving regulations that pertain to RVs.
Driving laws, in general, tend to vary from one state to another and this is especially true if you are operating a heavy and large vehicle such as an RV.
While it can be easy to miss you crossing state lines on a long camping trip, not being aware of any change in-laws at the border might end up costing you time and a hefty fine.
There is nothing more infuriating than being given a ticket for something you were not aware of.
Thankfully, there are a couple of laws that are universally upheld. For one, you must obey the posted speed limits and signs regardless of what state you are in.
It is also legal in all 50 states to turn right when you stop at a red light unless a posted sign says otherwise. That being said, if you are driving an RV as big as a Class A, you will want to do this with caution.
Additional laws that apply to every driver tends to vary by state. For example, numerous cities have added distracted driving regulation to their code, making things such as texting at the wheel illegally.
When it comes to driving laws, there are numerous laws that pertain solely to driving RVs. For example, if you are driving an RV and have been carrying passengers in the back, you should be aware of the pertinent seatbelt law regarding RVs, as these tend to vary from one state to the net.
If your RV has alcohol on it, in the RV fridge, for instance, it would be advantageous for you to learn more about the state’s open container law.
In numerous states, you can legally have an open alcohol container in an RV given that it is a domicile, however, it is much better to ensure it is not near the driver at any point. This is just to ensure a police officer doesn’t get any ideas, should the RV be stopped.
Laws regarding towing
While most laws regarding an RV might seem straightforward, towing comes with its own complications and intricacies, especially when dealing with the weight and length of a travel trailer.
- For instance, in Alabama, the maximum length of travel trailers is 40 feet
- In 14 states (Tennesse, Oklahoma, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Missouri, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, and Alabama) and the District of Columbia, your travel trailer needs to adhere to a width limit of 8 feet.
- Connecticut requires every RV in the state to be limited to the following dimensions: width of 7.5 feet, the height of 8 feet, length of 24 feet, and weight of 7,300 lbs.
- Some states require additional equipment such as special breaks specifically for towed vehicles with a weight higher than the limit. Utah, for example, mandates that trailers over 3,000 lbs have a breakaway braking system, whilst North Carolina mandates travel trailers heavier than 1,000 lbs have an autonomous brake system.
It does not matter where you are going or if you are just passing through a state, it is always important that you find out the road laws of each state prior to hitting the road. Doing this ensures that you never find yourself in a bad situation.
It might seem daunting trying to find out the information regarding each state, thankfully, the internet is a great resource tool. You can even use it to connect to other RVers to gain more insight on any driving laws you may not be aware of.
You should always plan your route ahead of time and remember you cannot sleep in an RV while it is moving unless it is in a passenger seat and has a seat belt.