Driving across the country in a camper van is what American dreams are made of. Once you actually get on that open road, though, you might find that traveling with a temporary home in tow isn't as easy as you thought it would be.
Each state has its own laws regarding the size of your trailer, your speed when pulling one, and—perhaps most importantly—the passengers and where they can sit. In some places, that fantasy of the family playing a card game in the back while cruising along Interstate 70 can never legally become a reality.
Get acquainted with the laws before you go mapping out your summer getaway.
Define What You're Driving
It sounds obvious: Of course you know what you're driving. But when that State Highway Patrol pulls you over, a "camper" simply won't suffice. Every driver needs to know how, exactly, their pull-behind is classified.
Travel trailers, for instance, are the kind that can be mounted onto the back of standard cars. Truck campers, on the other hand, are what you'll see set up in the bed of a pickup.
A fifth-wheel travel trailer can have the same amenities as the conventional travel trailer but is constructed with a raised section in front, which allows for a spacious bi-level floor plan. These models are designed to be towed by a pickup truck and are equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch.
Read up on the Passenger Laws
Now that you know what you're dealing with, you need to know where your partner and kids are allowed to sit.
The rules here vary from state to state. Some places enforce age limits for passengers riding in pull-behind campers. In Hawaii, for instance, passengers under 13 years old aren't permitted to ride in the back while the camper is in motion. In Kansas, the age limit is 14 years old.
Passengers are allowed to roam freely about your camper when traveling through Georgia, but must have easy access to the drive compartment. In a number of states, passengers in the camper must be able to have audible or visual communication with the driver.
Consider whether the states you're traveling to allow passengers to ride in 5th wheel trailers, travel trailers, or truck campers, and plan your road trip accordingly. These regulations can change the minute you cross state lines, and some of them allow passengers in one kind of camper but not in others.
|State||5th Wheel||Travel Trailer||Truck Camper|
|Hawaii||No||No||Yes (over 13)|
|Kansas||Yes (over 14)||Yes (over 14)||Yes (over 14)|
* Communications are required between the driver and any passengers traveling in the camper.
Additional Things to Keep in Mind
In addition to laws regarding passengers, there may also be restrictions on the size of your trailer (most states have restrictions against those that are wider than 8 feet, as a general rule), the speed you go, your brakes and taillights, as well as varying hitch requirements.
Refer to the Departments of Motor Vehicles for the states in which you'll be traveling to find out whether any might apply to you. You can call your local AAA for guidance, too.