General RV’s Zac Andersen preps a camper on his lot before unhooking it from the truck. (Ken Fall, KSL-TV)
DRAPER — With access to mountains, deserts, rivers and lakes, summer in Utah is unlike anything else. No matter what you’re towing — a camper, boat or four wheelers — safety must be top of mind.
Zac Andersen and his family know how to vacation.
“We’d like to go down to Moab area, we like to go up in Idaho to some of the hot springs places, out in the West Desert,” he said.
Their family camper has taken them all across the state.
“When they were really little, they would say, ‘How many sleeps till we go?'” Andersen said.
As his kids have gotten older, they still enjoy going with the family.
“(It) keeps the family together. I’ve got a 15-, almost 16-year-old girl, and she’s not shying away from it. She still loves going with us and doing what we do!” he said.
Andersen is also the sales manager at General RV Utah in Draper.
He said this summer, they’ve continued to see an increased demand for RVs and campers.
“They’re coming and going as quick as we can get them and selling records. The sales have been record for the last two years since COVID hit,” he said.
Increased sales means more big vehicles and trailers on Utah’s roads.
Andersen reminded drivers of recreational vehicles that safety should always precede fun.
“You got to take that extra little bit of precaution. Take some wider turns, for sure. Watch your mirrors maybe a little bit more than you normally would,” he described.
He said towing a trailer or driving a motorhome can be a different experience.
“You’re sometimes quadrupling the weight of what you’re used to stopping, and so you need to give yourself a little bit more room to get slowed down,” he explained.
Before hitting the road, Andersen urged drivers to double check their equipment.
“You want to make sure that your chains are hooked up properly, you want to make sure that the couplers locked down good and that you have the right equipment,” he explained.
He said it’s also important to use the right hitch for proper weight distribution.
Make sure you activate your brake controllers too, he added.
“Your vehicle doesn’t notify the brakes to activate, unless you put a brake controller in it,” he said. “A lot of trucks and most vehicles don’t have brake controllers in them … but the tow package isn’t complete until you actually add the brake controller to work the brakes.”
Andersen also reminded drivers to check their tire pressure before leaving and to make sure their tires aren’t weathered or aged. He said they can get dry rot from sitting in the sun all day.
“You’ll get cracks in the sidewall, and even though it looks like it’s a new tire on the top with the tread, it’s actually, you know, on the verge of a blowout,” he explained.
He told people to start watching their tires more closely when they get to be about 6 or 7 years old.
If a driver finds themselves in inclement weather conditions, Andersen told people to play it safe.
“If you ever get into a real high, high wind advisory, you want to maybe just pull over and wait it out for a little while, because no matter what type of hitch setup and stuff, it could be a little overpowering,” he cautioned.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason said Utah is known as the crossroads of the West.
“Twenty-five percent of the traffic out there is semis, and then in the summer months, we have so many recreationalists — people heading out on the road with RVs, hauling boats,” he explained.
He said the increase in large vehicles warrants caution from everyone on the road.
Gleason urged people traveling in a moving RV to stay buckled up.
“It may be tempting to get up and walk around. You want to make sure that you’re fastened in your seat belt and just taking all the precautions that you would in a passenger vehicle if the RV is traveling,” he said.
He said it’s also critical for drivers of big recreational vehicles to give other drivers a proper heads up.
“It’s so important for any trailer that you’re pulling to be connected to the brake lights (and) the signals so that people driving behind you can see what you’re about to do,” he said.
Gleason said drivers of passenger vehicles are also responsible for sharing the road and making smart choices.
“You want to make sure that you’re not driving in the blind spot of a camper or of a semi, make sure that they can see you and usually give yourself a little bit of space between you and the high profile vehicle ahead of you,” he reminded people.
He said this is key to everyone getting to their destination and the best way to “Summer Safely.”
“RVing is a blast. It’s great experiences, great memories,” Andersen said.
“Take the proper precautions. Make sure that you’re doing everything that you should to get there and enjoy yourself and make those summer memories,” Gleason added.
A study from AAA found nearly 37% of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from a driver swerving to avoid hitting an object.
Gleason reminded people to properly tie down or secure their cargo before taking off to prevent drivers from overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris on the road.
“As you’re making your way out to enjoy yourself camping or boating, make sure that all of your cargo’s tied down if you’re hauling a trailer,” he said.
Just last year, the Utah Highway Patrol handled 26,000 calls for debris on the road, and UDOT clears 8,000 tons of debris on the road each year.