A truck hauling a fully loaded trailer requires roughly twice the distance to stop that a passenger vehicle requires. In addition, tractor trailers have sizable blind spots.
Experienced motorists know to keep their cars out of these "No Zones" so big rig operators can see them on the road. But our youngest drivers sometimes lack that important safety knowledge. And, between 2005 and 2009, nearly 4,000 16-to-24 year-olds were killed in crashes involving large trucks.
Thankfully, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance have teamed up with the National Organizations for Youth Safety for "Teens and Trucks," a campaign to educate teens about how to drive safely near large trucks and how to avoid the "No Zone."
Yesterday, at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, they talked to students about the critical importance of driving predictably and steering clear of a truck driver's blind spots. To demonstrate the difficulties truck drivers face, they also seated kids behind the wheel and stood others in the "No Zone."
Sharing a truck driver’s perspective helps young drivers learn to make smarter decisions when they're behind the wheel of their own vehicles. As FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said, "They can see just how extensive those blind spots really are, and generally, its a sobering message for teens who participate in these events."
The campaign comes just as summer is approaching. With schools out of session and teens free to drive more hours, May, June, July, and August are the most dangerous for teen drivers. During these four months, the average number of teens killed in crashes each day is nearly twice that of other months.
"Prom, graduation, and summer are fantastic times for youth to celebrate and enjoy. However, with these fun times come unfortunate tragedies,” said NOYS President Sandy Spavone.
The students at the "Teens and Trucks" event at Whitman yesterday also heard stories of personal tragedies from distracted driving crash victims, and I want to thank Jacy Good and Laurie Kelley for sharing their powerful cautionary stories.
The message is clear: Whether it's driving carefully near big trucks with wide blind spots or pledging not to text behind the wheel, to be safe on the road, young drivers must make good decisions.
CVSA Executive Director Steve Keppler urged the Whitman students to, “Be accountable for your actions, spread the word to your friends and parents, and help create a culture of safety."
"Most importantly," he said, "take the driving task seriously."
I think that's good advice for all of us who drive.