Road safety program stops here

September 18, 2004|by TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT - If it takes an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer traveling at highway speeds the length of a football field to stop, and a 3,000-pound car crosses its path, what's the outcome?

"You know what happens," said Bill Adams, a professional truck driver for Overnite Transportation who also educates the public with highway driving tips for the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

With 1,300 fatalities per year across the country from accidents involving large trucks, ATA created Share the Road, a traveling highway safety program.


Share the Road, sponsored by Mack Trucks Inc., made a stop Friday at D.M. Bowman Business Park near Williamsport to spread the word on how to safely share the road with trucks.

"Image is important to us, and part of having a good image is being safe," said Jim Ward, president of D.M. Bowman Inc.

Up to 75 percent of all truck-related fatalities inadvertently are initiated by passenger vehicles, and 35 percent of those accidents happen in a truck's blind spots, according to a written statement from the ATA.

"By educating the public, we're hoping to minimize as best we can the incidents out on the road," said John Walsh, communications manager at Mack Trucks' Allentown, Pa., headquarters.

Adams said that drivers of passenger vehicles often aren't made aware that tractor-trailers have blind spots, take longer to slow down than cars or cannot swerve out of the way as quickly as cars to avoid accidents.

While on Interstate 81 during a ride-along demonstration for the media, Adams said both sides of trucks create blind spots for the trucker, meaning truck drivers often can't see cars passing them.

"Whenever you pass a truck, don't linger alongside," Adams said, just after a car pulled along the right side of his Mack truck and disappeared in his side mirror. Moments later, the car reappeared in front of the truck and sped away.

On rainy days, gray-or white-colored cars traveling behind a truck blend in with the mist and pavement, making it difficult for truckers to see them, Adams said.

"They're invisible," he said of gray cars, in particular.

Adams said that if truckers and other motorists drive responsibly, the number of fatalities and accidents might decrease.

"Our only goal here is to save lives," Adams said.

"It's not a competition out here on the highways. We're both out here for a reason," he said. "We can share the highway together, but we have to respect each other, and it will make things a lot easier on the highway."

The following are the American Trucking Association's Share the Road guidelines for motorists:

· Never cut in front of a truck. Fully loaded trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds and take the length of a football field to stop. Most cars weigh 3,000 pounds.

· Don't linger alongside a truck. There are large blind spots around trucks where cars momentarily disappear from view, and the driver can't see you.

· Pass trucks quickly. To make themselves visible, cars should not linger near trucks and should move past them or slow down to move out of the blind spot.

· Changing lanes. Change lanes only when you can see both of the truck's headlights in your rearview mirror.

· If possible, pass a truck on the left, not on the right. A truck's blind spot runs the length of the trailer and extends out three lanes. Motorists should try to avoid passing through the large blind spot.

· Keep a safety cushion around trucks. Try to leave a 10-car length safety cushion in front of a truck and stay 20 to 25 car lengths behind a truck.

· Check the truck's mirrors. If you're following a truck and you can't see the driver's face in the truck's side mirrors, the truck driver can't see you.

· Allow trucks adequate space to maneuver. Trucks make wide turns at intersections and require additional lanes to turn, so motorists should allow a truck the space it needs to maneuver.

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