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Tourists get unique view of road

August 11, 2000

Tourists get unique view of road



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Kids and grownups climbed into the cab of a tractor-trailer truck at the Interstate 81 welcome center Friday morning and saw firsthand what the truck driver sees when the rig is rolling down the highway.

More important, they were able to see what the driver doesn't see - other vehicles behind, in front of and on both sides of the rig in an area truck drivers call the "no-zone." That's the sections of road that don't show up in the driver's five rear-view mirrors.

Such blind spots are the most dangerous for truckers and the vehicles passing through them, said Uly Bell, 53, a veteran Roadway Express truck driver from Harrisburg, Pa.

Bell and fellow driver Ed Hubbard, 57, also of Harrisburg, parked at the welcome center between Exits 1 and 2 as part of a display aimed at promoting safer driving on the interstate, especially for drivers heading to Harrisburg and the beltway of highways that ring the city.

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PennDot snow-removal trucks were also in the display. Their drivers also complained about motorists who come too close to their trucks during plowing operations.

The safety promotion was organized earlier this year in response to a series of crashes on the Harrisburg Beltway in February that claimed the lives of five people, said Kimberly Morewood, spokeswoman for PennDot. She said a special advisory committee was appointed to come up with ideas to make the beltway and interstates leading to it, including I-81, safer.

The committee's campaign came to Franklin County Friday hoping to lure tourists stopping at the rest stop to take a few moments to get a lesson in highway safety.

Most travelers walked by the display without stopping, but among those who did was Mark Ingram of Birmingham, Ala. He was on his way to New Jersey in a camper, he said. His day job is delivering mobile homes, which is even trickier than driving a tractor-trailer, he said.

"I didn't learn much today because I know most of this stuff," Ingram said. "The main thing to watch when driving one of these things is the public. You don't have room to react to what they do sometimes because they don't understand what it takes to drive a big truck."

Trooper Linette Quinn, spokeswoman for Troop H, Pennsylvania State Police, which includes the Chambersburg barrack, said there were 120 traffic accidents in Franklin County, including one fatality, in July. In the same month a year ago the tally was 102 accidents with two fatalities, she said.

So far this year, through July 31, there were 717 traffic accidents in the county compared with 654 for the same period in 1999, she said.

Quinn said the object of promotions like the one Friday is to make motorists aware that interstates are highly traveled with more truck traffic than ever and that motorists have to adjust their driving habits accordingly.

Bell said the biggest cause of interstate traffic accidents is driving too close to the vehicle ahead.

"If you're close enough to read the license plate of the vehicle ahead of you then you only have two or three seconds to respond," he said.

Hubbard, who wears a belt buckle that says he has driven 1 million accident-free miles, said more people are tailgating today than ever before.

"The guy behind flashes his lights at the guy ahead so he gets irritated and won't pull over. First thing you know you have two hot heads going down the road," Hubbard said.

"It seems like everybody has to be ahead of somebody else."

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