Is It Legal To Sleep in an RV While Driving?

For many people, their RV is like their home away from home. They like nothing more than to head out, often with the whole family in tow, to explore their state, or the country, in a way that offers them a lot more freedom – and amenities – than taking a road trip in a standard car does. But how many of those conveniences and amenities can you – or should you – take advantage of while your RV is actually on the move? Can you sleep in an RV when it’s moving? Walk around? Cook? Can you use the bathroom in a moving RV?

The answers to these oft posed questions – and more in a similar vein, are not always clear-cut, as the rules of road as they govern RV use can vary significantly from state to state, which can be complicated by the fact that state lines can be very close together, and it can be easy to miss when you’ve left tone and crossed into another.

Traffic police don’t accept ignorance as an excuse for illegal and unsafe behavior, though, so it’s best to have at least a basic idea of what you can and can’t do in a moving RV. Which is what we are going to take a closer look at here.

Man driving a camper van rv motorhome

Can a person sit in the RV’s living space while it is on the road? The answer is contingent on the sort of RV you’re in. Passengers can sit in the rear of a Class A, Class B, or Class C motorhome while the vehicle is moving. This is due to the fact that these RVs are built to resist driving accidents.

To be explicit, travel trailers and campers do not meet the requirements for safe passenger transportation since they lack the safety elements found in motorhomes. To begin with, most trailers and campers do not have seatbelts. Second, in the case of an auto accident, these sorts of mobile homes really aren’t intended to safeguard passengers and can easily jackknife.

In a nutshell, sitting in the backseat of a Class A, B, or C motorhome is an option. You may be expected to stay seated and fastened in for the duration of the trip, depending on the state. It should be noted that the only state that does not have a seat belt law is New Hampshire.

Every other state has enforceable seat belt laws of varying strictness, with the main difference being whether they are primary or secondary. In a primary enforcement state, if a law enforcement officer sees a violation, he or she can stop the motorist and issue a ticket. In a secondary enforcement state, a peace officer may only stop or cite anyone in the vehicle (passengers included) for not wearing a seat belt if the driver has committed another primary offense (such as speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, etc.) at the same time.

Can You Sleep in an RV While Driving?

Obviously, if you are the actual driver this is a huge no, but what about passengers? In the majority of states, if you can sleep upright in a seat, then sure snooze away, making sure that if the law requires it, you are wearing a seatbelt. What you cannot do, however, in any state of the union, is sleep in one of the RV beds while the vehicle is in motion.

And not only is this against the law, but it simply is not safe. As a snoozing passenger, you may fall out of bed if the RV comes to a sudden stop, and as a person asleep in a bed is likely to be in a deeper state of unconsciousness, they would stand far less of a chance of making it out in the event of a crash.

Can You Drink in a Moving RV?

In terms of the letter of the law, there are some states in which it would not technically be illegal for a passenger to drink alcohol while riding in a moving RV, just as it is not technically illegal for them to do so in a standard passenger vehicle.

In practice however, if you are stopped for any reason, you can, and maybe should, expect the officer involved to be alarmed by the presence of open alcohol containers, and to detain everyone, the driver included, until they can ascertain that the RV is being safely operated/towed. It’s really not worth the risk of spoiling the whole trip, not to mention risking the driver’s license, to grab a beer while the RV is in motion. Grab a soda or a coffee instead, and save the adult beverages until you get to your destination.

Is It Legal To Cook in a Moving RV?

The legalities around cooking in a moving RV are murky. Technically, cooking usually involves standing, which will mean you are not safely buckled into your seat, which in the states with stricter seatbelt laws is an immediate violation. Even if that is not the case, maintaining your balance in a moving RV is not easy, so cooking won’t be either.

You may be tempted to at least hop up and use the microwave. It should work, even on the move, as all of your electrical systems should. If it’s simply a matter of nuking a bag of popcorn for a few minutes, then you can do that without too much mess, or standing for long.

Anything else might be tricky.

Legalities aside, trying to cook in a moving RV can be disastrously messy. It will also make the cabin hotter, which will result in your A/C having to work a lot harder on a hot day to keep everyone – the driver included – cool. This not only puts stress on what’s often an expensive to fix HVAC system, but will also significantly reduce your gas mileage. Rather than deal with any of this, it really is either better to stick to cold, prepared food until you reach your destination – or pull into a rest stop for a break.

Is It Legal To Walk Around in a Moving RV?

Before going any further, we should state again that in every state in the union, it is unlawful to sleep, move around, or even be inside a moving RV such as a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or any other type of pull-behind camper. Therefore, if you are travelling in any of these you shouldn’t be, and whether you should walk around is a moot point.

Could you walk around a motorhome? If the law says you need to be strapped into your seat at all times, no. If it’s not quite as strict, then maybe, but you can expect it to be bumpy, and you’ll need to be prepared for a fall, especially if the diver needs to make a sudden stop.

Can You Use The Bathroom in an RV While Driving?

Not having to stop to use the bathroom is one of the things that RV owners have over ‘regular’ travelers. The good news is that you can use the RV restroom while it is moving. You may use the toilet and flush with the water pump as usual while the vehicle is on the road, since the electrical systems are active. This applies to RVs in the Class A, B, and C categories.

However, as some jurisdictions require all passengers in an RV to stay seated for the duration of the journey, you’ll have to pull over to use the onboard restroom if this is the case in the state you’re passing through. And remember, sudden stops or turns may cause you to fall off the toilet, which is something that could be very bad, so pulling over is a good idea anyway.

Can You Watch TV in an RV While Driving?

As all the RV’s electrical systems should be functional as usual, there is probably nothing to stop passengers from watching the TV from the safety of their seats. As a TV may be distracting for the driver, check with them first. A traffic officer may also consider the situation unsafe if you are stopped if the TV is in the driver’s line of sight.

Can You Carry Firearms in an RV?

Although the United States Constitution allows you to possess a handgun, the laws and restrictions governing how, when, and where you can carry a firearm differ by state. In certain jurisdictions, for example, having a firearm in your car, even if it’s empty and cased, may need a permit.

If gun ownership is important to you, and you want to travel with firearms on board, consult the 2021 Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States, which is kept up-to-date with all you need to know about traveling lawfully with your weapons in any type of vehicle, RVs included. 

Final Thoughts

As is the case when riding in any other moving vehicle, safety should be paramount when traveling in an RV. While some things might be technically legal – like walking around, or riding without a seatbelt – they are really too dangerous to risk.

One of the great joys of RV life is having access to all kinds of extra amenities that other travelers don’t (until they get to their hotel etc.) but they really are best reserved for use when you have reached your destination safely and everyone, including the driver, can enjoy them.

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