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Campervans and the law

by Dabs Banner
motorhome-in-sunset-by-the-sea
A motorhome by the sea at sunset

The freedom offered by a campervan or motorhome when driving off on a holiday or setting out for a road trip is pretty hard to beat.
The go-anywhere, stop-anywhere lifestyle is hugely attractive to many and one of the main reasons they buy a campervan in the first place.
But there are some important things to take on board before packing the camper and getting behind the wheel.
Without proper preparation enthusiastic campervanners could find themselves in trouble with the law.
One thing to check is whether your driving licence covers the vehicle. This has become trickier with the advent of new regulations.
Another concerns the safety of passengers and which seats can be used while the vehicle is in motion.
Finally, overnight parking can prove a real headache with a choice between high-priced car parks and illegal 'wild camping'.

Check your driving licence

This applies particularly to owners of motorhomes and larger recreational vehicles. Drivers who passed their test before 1997 will probably have a category C1 licence.
The C1 licence allows you to drive any vehicle up to 7,500kg in weight and that will include most small and medium sized motorhomes and virtually all campervans.
The weight, known as the MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass) is the weight of a fully laden vehicle.
Drivers who took their test after January 1, 1997 can only drive vehicles up to 3,500kg. Most campervans and smaller motorhomes should come in under the limit but larger vans could exceed this. If the motorhome weighs more the driver will need to take another test to regain the Category C1 licence.
This assumes, of course, that the driver is under 70 years of age. Drivers are required to renew their licence when they reach 70 and although this is normally just a formality, it does result in an automatic downgrading of the licence to category C. This can be avoided with a D4 medical certificate from a GP.
It can all seem a bit confusing and, if you are unsure, you can check what vehicles you can drive on the GOV.UK website here .

Know your seat belt laws

Campervans and motorhomes often have several types of seating. Laws in seat belt use can be confusing as recreational vehicles can be fitted with front, rear and side-facing seats.
Modern motorhomes will have designated travel seats fitted with seat belts and passengers are required by law to use them in transit.
Side-facing seats are not travel seats and should not be used in transit even if they are fitted with seat belts. Motorhome and campervan seat belts have been fully tested in crash simulations and designed specifically to reduce impact injuries.
Remember that he campervan driver is responsible for the safety of passengers. More guidance on seat belts can be found on the Department of Transport website.

Know your parking places

Campervan owners love to get away from the crowds but finding somewhere to park up overnight can prove a problem. Pulling over anywhere you like, in private woodland or on a cliff with sea views, is unlikely to be met with approval and, indeed, there are local by-laws making it illegal in much of the UK.
However, many campervan owners, tell of parking at a scenic lakeside, river bank or hilltop without causing too much trouble.The secret is to keep a low profile, check first with a landowner if you can, stay out of sight, don't stay too long and don't leave any rubbish behind.
Alternatives for overnight parking are pub car parks (after a friendly word with the landlord) and official campsites (where there is usually a charge).
Fortunately there are several phone apps available that help campervan owners find suitable parking sites while on the move. They usually have reviews and include details of campsites, pub car parks, wild camping spots and more.
There are directories available listing pubs, farms and retails centres that offer free overnight parking for campervan and motorhome owners. Wherever you go there will be nights when you need a good shower, hot meal and an electricity hook-up that go with a good campsite.

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