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Be intent on preventing camping motor mishaps

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 31, 2016


From Memorial Day weekend on, many metro Detroiters will seek out a natural retreat during their summer excursions. But even on a camping trip, people aren’t out of the woods in terms of motor safety.

Gary Bubar, public affairs specialist at AAA Michigan, said a combination of factors like warmer weather and kids finishing the school year will mean more traffic on roads and at travel destinations, including campsites. 

Bubar said low speeds are generally mandated at campground sites, and he said speed limits are usually 15 mph. Consideration should be given to other pedestrian campers and campsite users, he said.

“And then also recognizing that campgrounds are highly populated, you’re likely to have a lot of children and families, many of whom don’t think about the kind of risks that they face, similar to their own homes and streets,” he said.

Bubar also warned that recreational vehicle drivers or anyone towing a trailer must recognize that those situations offer different vehicle handling characteristics. Drivers should be able to see out their windows, and packed bags or gear should not obstruct the line of sight.

“Vision, we know, can be an issue,” he said. “As you pack, make sure that whatever you load is balanced and that it doesn’t block your vision to the sides or rear of the vehicle.”

Maia Turek, statewide recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said drivers need a Recreation Passport in order to use state parks and campgrounds.

Motorists can buy a passport while renewing license plates at Michigan Secretary of State branch offices. The passports are tied to vehicle registration, and a passport costs $11 per car or $5 per motorcycle during a Michigander’s registration term, she said. 

While Turek said the passports may be bought at the parks too, she said participants may gain additional “Passport Perks” by acquiring passports through the Secretary of State. 

“About 1,100 businesses in Michigan offer a freebie or discount when you show your registration,” she said, describing the perks program.

Turek also advised using proper driving safety and etiquette when rolling through the campground sites in the state parks. For instance, she said campgrounds are often marked at speed limits of 10 mph due to pedestrians. 

“I always tell people, you want to obey the speed limits,” she said. “We have a lot of kids that bolt out into the road, more than most neighborhoods even.”

She also cautioned drivers against leaving pets inside the vehicle unattended, even if the windows are rolled down.

“Your pet has to be within your control at all times,” she said. “If (a dog) starts barking and you’re not there, you can actually be ticketed for that.”

When operating an RV or a vehicle with an attached trailer, a human spotter can help a driver with actions such as backing up, she said.

“Our state park campgrounds are going to be more rustic and likely not paved,” she added.  “You just want to make sure you have skills to maneuver that RV in an area that has a lot of trees.”

Find out more about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Recreation Passports by visiting To find out more about AAA Michigan, visit