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Driving program stresses safety

December 18, 2000

Driving program stresses safety



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Safety demonstrationGREENCASTLE, Pa. - From his perch high above Interstate 81 in a Roadway tractor-trailer, Uly Bell is constantly eyeing the road ahead for cars entering and exiting the highway and keeping track of vehicles that might enter his blind spots.

As part of a safe-driving event sponsored in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Capital Beltway Advisory Committee Monday at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center between Exits 1 and 2 on I-81, Bell came to show the truck to interested travelers and take some for a ride to show what obstacles truck drivers like him face on a daily basis.

"All I can do is be ready for (other drivers) to make a mistake," said Bell, who has nearly 20 years of safe driving experience.

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This is the second safe-driving event at the center this year, said Ray Dunkle, center manager.

Hoffman Transport of Greencastle, Pa., also brought its "No-Zone" tractor-trailer, which shows the areas where crashes are more likely to occur by indicating them with decals on the sides of the truck. Some of those No-Zones are actual blind spots where cars disappear from the view of the truck driver as he or she looks in mirrors or out of the cab.

The No-Zones include several car lengths directly behind and in front of the truck and on both sides.

The small, round mirrors attached to the side-view mirrors on trucks reduce the size of the No-Zones, but they can ice over easily in the winter and become unusable, said Lou Dennis, driver personnel manager for Hoffman Transport.

Hoffman purchased the No-Zone decal truck two years and has since driven it to dozens of displays at schools and businesses in a 250-mile radius, Dennis said.

"We all have to use this road. Drivers need to be courteous and give everyone the proper distance," Dennis said.

The display has an even greater impact when Hoffman can line up about 20 cars in all of the No-Zones and participants actually get in the cab of the truck and see the cars "disappear," Dennis said.

The Welcome Center's parking lot was too small for such a demonstration.

"People know about blind spots, but there are ramifications of us making a wrong move at the wrong time, and I might not feel a bump, but I've destroyed a family," Dennis said.

He cautioned people also need to watch out when crossing in front of truck because they are often not tall enough to be visible over the truck's hood.

Bell, who drives from Carlisle, Pa., to Lexington, Va., and back every day, said leaving enough room between vehicles is the top safety precaution all drivers can take.

Trucks traveling at 55 miles per hour take the length of a football field to stop, Bell said, which could be disastrous if a driver has to stop suddenly on an interstate.

He said he judges his proximity to cars ahead by whether or not he can read their license plates. If he can, he needs to slow down.

He added that drivers also should be aware curves in the road increase the size of a blind spot.

"The best way to know if a truck can see you is if you can see the eyes of the truck driver in his mirror," Bell said.

The Capital Beltway Advisory Committee began its education and enforcement campaign for safe driving after forming in February when three crashes caused five fatalities on the beltway around Harrisburg, Pa., said spokeswoman Kimberly Moorehead.

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