New RV owners often want to know if passengers are allowed to ride inside of a towed RV while it’s in motion. When we bought our fifth wheel, this was one of the first questions our kids asked us. We did a lot of research to find answers that are legal and safe.
Whenever in a moving RV, passengers and driver should always buckle up for their own safety. That means you can ride in an RV only if you're seated in a seat with safety belts.
- Motorhomes usually have safety belts in some seats where passengers can safely stay while the RV is on the move.
- In towable campers (travel trailers or 5th wheels), passengers need to be in the towing vehicles while on the road.
The laws for having people in a towed RV while it’s moving are not always clear, as each state has its own regulations. Some states allow for passengers to ride in a towed RV, but only if you take certain precautions.
It’s important to remember that not all states allow passengers to ride in a towed RV. Laws are always subject to change, so be sure to check with your state to see if these guidelines are still in effect.
If you're not sure what the differences between motorhomes and towable RV's are, take a minute to read our guide about the 7 types of RV's.
Can you ride in towed RV's while they're on the move?
Let's talk about having passengers ride inside a 5th wheel or travel trailer.
Again, each state sets its own laws about which, if any, towable RVs are legal to carry passengers inside.
Some states prohibit passengers in a travel trailer, but allow them in a fifth wheel. Other states allow passengers in a pickup camper, but not in fifth wheels or travel trailers. A few states allow passengers inside of a travel trailer.
If a state legally allows passengers to ride inside a towable RV, these are the most common safety precautions that states may require drivers to take ahead of time.
Be Able to Communicate
If the state you’re traveling through allows passengers in the camper, it is essential that the driver is able to communicate with them. You might use a cell phone if you’re in an area where you have cell reception or a two-way radio. Consider having a way to visually alert one another in case reception is spotty, or another device failure occurs. The important thing is that the driver can notify the passengers if a bumpy section is coming up, or that the passengers can alert the driver to pull over if there is a problem in the RV.
Install Safety Glass
Make sure that your RV has safety glass windows installed. Just like in an automobile or truck, safety glass ensures that if a stray rock or other object hits the window, the glass will not shatter into the passenger’s skin or eyes. You can check your owner’s manual or contact your RV’s manufacturer if you don’t know what kind of windows you have in your RV. If you don’t have shatterproof glass in your RV windows, you should not carry passengers while driving.
Adult Passengers Only
This may seem obvious, but you should not allow children to ride in a towed vehicle without an adult. No matter how much they may beg you, it isn’t safe. RVs aren’t built with the same types of safety protocols as automobiles. As anyone who has towed an RV over some distance knows, things do become dislodged during the journey. Items can easily come loose or fall while the RV is in motion, and children could accidentally get injured.
Leave A Way Out
Unfortunately, we all know that accidents do happen. If an accident were to occur with passengers inside your towed RV, emergency workers may need to get inside of the RV quickly to tend to passengers. Likewise, you would want your passengers to be able to get out quickly if there was a fire or other hazard inside the RV. Your RV doors should be unlocked so that passengers could get out in an emergency situation. It’s smart to make sure that both sides of the RV have a window or door that passengers or emergency workers could easily access in case of an accident.
Have Seat Belts Available
In some states, riding inside of a towable RV is allowed, but passengers are required to have seat belts fastened while the RV is in motion. Most towable RVs are not built with seat belts attached to the living area furniture, so you would need to have these installed yourself. You should determine which seats of the RV are the safest to use and make sure the number of passengers does not exceed the number of seat belts installed in your RV.
Secure All Objects
This is more of a practical safety point, rather than a legal one. Ensure that all of your overhead cabinets close tightly and that all loose objects inside the RV are secured. Even if you think that a picture frame is securely fastened to the wall, it only takes a construction zone or unexpected pothole to send it flying to the floor. If you have carts or appliances with wheels on the bottom, you need to lock the wheels in place or strap them down so that they won’t roll around during your journey, causing potential injury.
Do RV passengers need seat belts
If you want to keep people safe, they need to buckle up while the vehicle is on the move. That's true of any vehicle, RV's included. You never know when an accident, or even just an emergency break, may occur. When a vehicle is moving along at 60MpH and suddenly breaks, anyone and anything that isn't fastened up is likely to get thrown around and smashed.
Here's a short video that shows you what happens to a child who's not wearing a seat belt during a crash. The vehicle is a car, but with the front seats removed. It's a good simulation of what could happen in the open space of an RV -
Legally speaking, not all states require that all RV passengers buckle up. Some states only require mandatory seat belts for front seats. This is important when talking about motorhomes. It means that some RV manufacturers may have seat belts available only for the front seats. If you're looking to take passengers in a Class A, Class B, or Class C motorhome, make sure you have enough seat belts to go around. You may need to install a few more.
Is it legal to sleep in an RV while driving
The temptation is there. Kids are still asleep in their bunk beds, so why wake them up? Let them sleep in while you cover the distance to your next vacation spot, right?
Unfortunately, while it may be tempting, it's probably illegal and definitely not safe. It's illegal in a towable (especially where children are involved). But regardless of one's age, it's much safe for everyone to buckle up.
Can you walk around in an RV while driving
Admittedly, many RV'ers risk getting up to get a glass of water or use the bathroom, without pulling over. This goes back to the basic safety issue. If the RV has an emergency brake or crashes into something, anyone walking around could end up thrown in the air and smashing into the furniture or the walls.
Sure, many people get away with it. Accidents are - luckily! - rare. But is really worth the risk? Pulling over for a break every couple of hours and using that time to eat and use the bathroom (or even to take a nap!) is much safer.
Can you use the bathroom in an RV while driving?
Technically, yes. And as long as the water pump is turned on, you should be able to flush too. Again, the safer option would be to pull over, take a 10-minute break. Do your business, wash up, and get back on the road.
Our Family's Decision
After doing our research, our family made the decision to keep all passengers in the truck while towing our fifth wheel down the road. We don’t feel like having passengers inside the RV is worth the risk, even though it is legal in some states.
While it’s tempting to want more “personal space” on a long road trip, we know that the truck cab is a safer place for everyone to be in case of an accident. We try to enjoy the time together in the truck as a family since family bonding is largely what our travel is about anyway.
What about motorhomes?
As mentioned before, Class A, B & C motorhomes are designed for everyone to be inside the moving coach.
However, what are the rules for walking around, using the bathroom, or making lunch while driving down the road?
Can Passengers Walk Around In A Motorhome While It's On The Move?
Each state varies on RV seat belt laws, although all would agree that staying seated with a seat belt secured is the safest way to ride. The age of the passenger and the location of the seat are the main factors that the state takes into consideration when making their regulations.
Motorhomes or camper vans are required to have seat belts installed in the front passenger seats, but not the back seats. It is recommended that you take the extra precautionary measure to install and use seat belts in the back seats of your motorhome if you plan to have passengers in the back area. Be sure to check with your state to know the current RV seat belt laws.
Can You Sleep In A Motorhome While In Motion
Sleeping in a motorhome while it’s moving is not recommended. It would be in violation of state RV seat belt laws to not be buckled in while driving. Also, many people feel that sleeping on an RV bed while it’s moving is dangerous. In the case of an accident or falling objects, the sleeping person will not be able to move out of the way to avoid possible injury. If the driver or passenger is tired, there are many places where you can safely pull over and get a few hours of rest before continuing on your journey.
Even though having passengers ride in a towable RV is legal in some states, it is not recommended. If you choose to have passengers in the back area of your motorhome or towed RV while driving, follow all safety precautions. The most important thing is that all passengers arrive safely at your travel destination so you can enjoy your RV road trip together.