It is legal to ride in a 5th wheel or travel trailer in SOME states, but even some that allow it have certain restrictions. So, it’s important to know state laws. But more so, it’s important to consider whether or not riding in a 5th wheel is safe regardless of laws…
Recently, a member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group asked the group if riding in a 5th wheel while it’s being towed is legal. Nearly 300 people responded!!
Many responses addressed her question directly, but many more addressed the question of safety even more. So, I’m going to do the same and address BOTH concerns, sharing what many of the commenters said.
First, let’s start with answering the question that was asked…
Is It Legal to Ride in a 5th Wheel While Driving?
There are mixed answers to the legality of this question in the Facebook post and for good reason. Many commenters were responding based on their state laws, and they’re different in each state!
It’s either legal, illegal, or legal if the passengers have communication with the driver. So, to give you the most accurate answer, we need to look at each possibility on a state-by-state basis.
Now, keep in mind, that there’s a difference between 5th wheel trailers and travel trailers. As you’ll see, more states allow passengers in 5th wheel trailers than travel trailers. Since states that allow you to ride in travel trailers is a short list, I’ll cover those in one list further down.
*Please note that sometimes laws change or I simply get things wrong. This is meant as an easy resource but it never hurts to double-check laws for any state you're traveling to.
What States Is It Illegal to Ride in a 5th Wheel While Being Towed?
It is illegal for passengers to ride in a 5th wheel while being towed under any circumstances in the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
What States Is It Legal to Ride in a 5th Wheel? (No Regulations)
As you’ll see, where it’s legal is a much shorter list than where it’s illegal. The following states do allow passengers to ride in a 5th wheel while it’s being towed without added regulations:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
What States Is It Legal to Ride in a 5th Wheel? (w/ Regulations)
Some states do allow passengers to ride in a 5th wheel with added restrictions. Those restrictions are either age limits or required communication between the drivers and passengers riding in the 5th wheel (Denoted as “Comm.”).
- California (Comm.)
- Kansas (over 14 yrs. old)
- Oregon (Comm.)
- Pennsylvania (Comm.)
- South Carolina (Comm.)
- South Dakota (Comm.)
- Wisconsin (Comm.)
What States is it Legal to Ride in a Travel Trailer?
Travel trailers are even less stable than 5th wheel trailers and pose an even greater safety risk. We’ll talk more about safety next but first, here’s the short list of states that allow passengers to ride in a travel trailer while it’s being towed:
- Kansas (over 14 yrs. old)
- North Carolina
Alright, now let’s get to the question that is even more important…
Should You Ride in a 5th Wheel While It’s Being Towed?
I gotta warn you that there’s some controversy over this, which is clearly shown in the comments on the Facebook post. I will say that the majority emphatically say no, you should not ride in a 5th wheel or travel trailer while it’s being towed regardless of legality.
Others said that if it’s legal, why not? They said that if it’s good enough for the state then it’s good enough for them. A few others also said that they personally would not recommend it but it’s an individual choice.
While safety was the main concern for being against it, there was a big issue with comfort, too. So we’re going to discuss those two points.
Safety Concerns for Riding in a 5th Wheel or Travel Trailer
Quite a few commenters responded along the lines of “If you’ve ever seen or googled ‘travel trailer collisions’, you’d never allow passengers to ride in a 5th wheel while being towed.”
I took the bait and googled it myself. To spare you from the visuals, I’ll just tell you that most look like they were hit by tornadoes.
A law enforcement officer named Ken joined the conversation and he said, “Seen too much… Even a near miss and a hard brake would be deadly to RV passengers.”
Another member of the group named Patricia shared her experience as an example of Ken’s point. She said, “(Someone) pulls out in front of us, we slam on the breaks, my son, who's 5'11, gets thrown onto the floor. His leg ended up bent stuck between the doorway.”
Patricia went on to say that it ruined their trip because they had to go to the hospital and her son couldn’t walk for a month.
It’s also worth noting that many comments added pets to this scenario, saying “No pets or humans!”
To sum it up, LOTS of commenters simply wrote, “Noooooooo!” and several commenters jokingly replied along the lines of only allowing “mother-in-laws” and “people you don’t like” to ride back there.
Comfort Concerns for Riding in a 5th Wheel While Driving
You MUST watch this video 🙂
Even if you put legality and safety aside, there’s another big argument against riding in a 5th wheel: it’s uncomfortable! Many members in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group pointed this out.
First off, most 5th wheels and travel trailers are too cramped to comfortably ride in while the slides are closed.
Even if there is enough room, you’re in for one bumpy ride! A couple of commenters reminded us of the Lucille Ball movie, The Long Long Trailer. Watching the scene of Lucy trying to cook while being towed is hilarious yet reason enough to not ride in one!
Here’s what others said about whether or not you should ride in a 5th wheel:
- “I would not want to ride in a rolling earthquake” -Lydia
- “Only if you want Shake-N-Bake” – Ilene
- “Earthquake on Wheels” -Amy
In the end, the decision is up to you and the law. I hope all of this input from the RV community and the legal info helps you make that decision.
When Jennifer and I first went to Colorado, I felt like I finally understood what John Denver meant by his song: I've now been Rocky Mountain High.
And like Denver, exploring all that Colorado has to offer made me want to sing, too.
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