I’ll be honest: as an owner of an RV, I can’t say I’m really all that surprised by these results. An RV is basically a flimsy mobile house with wheels and a driving cab and an engine, somewhere, and it’s filled with furniture and appliances and explosive canisters and all manner of things that don’t deal well in wrecks. That’s why the Swedish Transport Administration’s alarming results from their crash-tests of motorhomes don’t exactly surprise me all that much. RVs are fun, but you probably shouldn’t delude yourself into thinking they’re all that safe.
The Swedish Transport Administration decided to test motorhomes because, as they state,
The reason why the Swedish Transport Administration has now carried out crash tests is the rapid increase in the number of motorhomes. Since 2014, the number of newly registered motorhomes in Sweden has increased by 50 per cent. During the same period, 6 people have died in a camper, 4 of them last year. The most common type of accident was frontal collision. Another approximately 100 people have been injured in road traffic accidents with motorhomes since 2014.
I get why motorhomes and RVs are getting more popular in Sweden—they’re pretty fun things. I bought an old 1970s one when I moved across country, and while I had a blast in that thing, I was pretty aware that it wasn’t even remotely as safe as pretty much anything else on the road in many kinds of accidents.
These vehicles tend to get loophole’d out of a lot of regulations here in America, but this recent study suggests that at least Sweden is interested in holding RVs to normal passenger car standards.
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The Swedish Transport Administration tested two types of motorhomes: fully integrated (meaning the body was entirely built as one unit by the manufacturer) and semi-integrated, where the front cab part of the vehicle is from the donor van, and the rear living-section part of the body is built separately.
You can see the results of these tests in this video:
The motorhomes performed quite poorly in the tests, with much more intrusion into the vehicle than in most other vehicle types, and all the furniture and appliances and other objects in the cabin—which has to be an order of magnitude more than in your average passenger vehicle—can become extremely dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash.
Just imagine some flying cutlery, for example.
The semi-integrated motorhomes did a bit better, perhaps as a result of retaining more of the manufacturer’s original body design, which would have been designed to pass European crash tests already.
While I’ve always accepted the lack of real safety in my RV as part of the deal, and driven it in a way that respects that (slowly, carefully), this should be a wake up call to at least try to make these things a bit safer.
They’re inherently harder to render safe in a wreck than most cars, but it sure seems that some effort would be a good idea.