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RV owners have a reputation for being among the safest drivers on the road. Maybe that's because most of them don't get behind the wheel of an RV until they have years of driving experience. Or maybe it's because they take special pride in maintaining and operating their vehicles.

Whatever the reason, RV owners recognize that driving safety takes a backseat to no one. Recent studies support the importance of personal driving habits. A report by the American Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that too many drivers fail to stay focused on the task of operating their vehicles. The authors of the report placed cameras in the vehicles of volunteers to record their behavior and found that the drivers were engaged in distracting behavior 16 percent of the time their vehicles were moving. (Previous studies have shown that distractions cause 25-30 percent of reported accidents.)

Although cellphone use has become a particular safety concern lately, AAA researchers noted that cellphones are far from the most common sources of distractions. Instead, drivers are more often distracted by reaching for objects in their vehicles, tuning their radios or CD players, and eating or drinking. Nearly half of the drivers were observed grooming themselves and reading or writing. Whatever the source of the distraction, the authors of the AAA report stressed that even the briefest diversion may lead to tragic consequences.

Another safety issue that has received growing attention recently is the problem of driver fatigue. Study after study has shown that American adults get less sleep than their bodies need. The result is a motoring population that is often drowsy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 100,000 reported accidents a year are related to driver fatigue. Moreover, approximately 1,500 traffic deaths in the United States (about 4 percent of all traffic fatalities) are caused by drivers falling asleep.

Drivers traveling long distances and at night are especially prone to fatigue. That group includes RVers. Safety experts warn that the only real remedy for fatigue is sleep. The caffeine in a cup of coffee or chocolate bar may provide a temporary jolt of energy, but the effects typically wear off after half an hour. Fortunately, even a 20-minute nap is often enough to restore a driver's vitality. The next time you're feeling drowsy behind the wheel of your RV, don't hesitate to pull off the road and take advantage of the comforts of your home away from home.

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