Around 150 RVers participated in an intensive training course reinforced by hands-on, behind-the-wheel instruction to better understand and improve basic RV driving and towing skills at the Third Annual Good Sam VIP RV Safety Rally.
The sold-out event, at the Bosch Automotive Proving Grounds in New Carlisle, Ind., May 15-18, informed attendees on the nuances and potential hazards associated with driving and handling motorhomes and towable RVs.
“Just as with any skill, it is good to test them with a qualified teacher,” reported Kathy Wenzel, marketing director for Good Sam VIP Insurance. “This rally is a good place to do that both in the classroom and on the road.”
Ed Young, a resident of San Antonio, Fla., had logged plenty of miles on the nation’s roads as a former traveling salesman, but still felt a bit uncomfortable after he purchased his new motorhome.
“I was a bit intimidated by the size and weight,” Young admitted. “I really had only been on the road three times before I drove up to the rally. It reinforced what I thought as far as basic driving skills. The main thing is that it was a tremendous confidence builder.”
Good Sam VIP Safety instructors conducted the RV Safety Classroom Program, which consisted of four 4-hour sessions over the first two days. The program included an RV Safety review, led by members of the Recreation Vehicle Safety Education Foundation (RVSEF). RVers were permitted to weigh their vehicles and discuss related topics such as proper tire inflation and weight distribution.
A slate of expert speakers gave seminars covering a wide range of topics such as propane and fire safety and preventive RV maintenance. The rally was hosted by the Good Sam Club, General Motors and GMAC Insurance, RVSEF and Elkhart, Ind., dealer Hart City RV, which provided the RV training vehicles.
“We had a very nice mix of experience in the participants,” Wenzel said. “There were people who had never RVed but were thinking about purchasing a vehicle, people who had just bought their first RV, along with a lot of veteran RVers.”
The highlight of the three-day event was the “RV Hands on Driving Course,” led by Akio Miyamoto, a retired police sergeant and owner of Vehicle Dynamics Inc. Miyamoto is currently the lead driving instructor for GM in their Driver Skill Enhancement Course and all members of his instruction crew are retired police officers or firefighters.
“Our goal is to teach people basic driving skills,” said Miyamoto, noting part of the hands-on program included instruction conducted in conventional automobiles and SUVs provided by GMAC. “The principles of driving an RV are really no different than driving a car. It’s just bigger and heavier. We want people to become comfortable with the size and the weight of the vehicles.”
Wade Bontrager, vice president of RV marketing for GMAC Insurance, said the rally was an extension of the safety programs already in place for Good Sam members. “I’m very impressed, particularly by the professionalism of the instructors,” Bontrager said. “Good Sam members already receive our lowest risk rating, so the rally just makes this group even safer.”
For the first two days, groups alternated on the three-mile oval course, which offered simulated freeway driving in addition to a series of situational sites covering everything from backing up tow vehicles to proper steering techniques and accident-avoidance maneuvers. The third day was optional on the course, giving participants who paid an additional fee a chance to practice what they learned in a one-on-one format with instructors.
“People really enjoyed the one-on-one training,” said Kevin Hobbs, vice president of marketing for the Good Sam Club.
“It offered them a chance to receive more personalized instruction and to focus in on specific skills.”
After two years in Palm Springs, Calif., Hobbs said Good Sam moved to the Midwest location because of the testing facility and to offer RVers in a different region access to the rally. Plans are to continue shifting the program to different areas around the country, according to Hobbs.