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Don’t Play RV Versus Bridge – Know Your RV Clearance Level

When you only drive a passenger car all your life, you don’t give your RV clearance level much thought. But once you start exploring America’s backroads in a 13′ tall vehicle you suddenly begin paying attention to low bridge hazards.

Is your RV clearance level safe for this bridge?

RV clearance
Rene Agredano

Before you ever turn the key, you need to know your RV’s clearance level. Should you forget to find out, if you hit a bridge during your travels you could end up paying a lot for structural damage repairs. At best you’ll achieve instant Internet notoriety by starring in one of these “RV vs. Bridge” videos:

You don’t want to be famous for this.

Every year over 5,000 low hazard collisions occur in the USA, resulting in over 100 million dollars’ worth of damage to public and personal property. According to, a GPS mapping program, these collisions cause approximately 1,000 injuries and 5 fatalities annually.

How to Avoid Low Bridge Accidents

Don’t put your RV and your life at risk. Here are five ways to avoid low bridge road collisions while traveling with your RV:

1. Use an RV-specific GPS like the Magellan Road Mate or an aftermarket GSP mapping software like to help plot your route. Whatever method you use make sure the data is regularly updated.

2. Know your RV’s clearance. Typically the air conditioner is the tallest point on a trailer or motorhome. You can have a professional measure your rig’s height with a long ruler at an RV weigh station like this:

Boost your confidence with a professional measurement.

RV clearance
Rene Agredano

Once you know your RV’s height, add six inches to it to get your final total. Those extra inches will:

  • allow room for unexpected road bounce while traveling underneath a bridge
  • protect you in case you get too close to a bridge incline while passing underneath
  • provide additional peace of mind, since exact clearance of bridges can be off by several inches depending on how many times the road has been paved over, among other factors.

3. Be aware of any warning signs while you drive. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and get a “low bridge clearance” indicator with enough time to make a hasty detour.

4. Stay as close to the center of the road as possible. When you head underneath a bridge it’s wise to stay in the middle of the road, where it’s most level and the bridge is the tallest.

5. Know how to back up in a hurry. All too often these low bridges approach without any warning. If you’re lucky you will be able to stop and turn around before any damage is done.

If you’re a frequent RV traveler and love exploring America’s back roads, you’re bound to run into one of the nation’s thousands of antiquated road bridges. Be prepared with low bridge clearance know-how and you’ll get through them safely without any damage to you or your rig.

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