Saving Truckers From Four-Wheelers

Four-wheelers are often the bane of every trucker's existence. Those pesky motorists cut you off, attempt to pass on the right when you're attempting a turn, ride on your side where you can't keep track of them in the mirrors and tailgate. Truckers need to stay on their toes because most motorists don't have a clue how to share the road safely with trucks.

There are ongoing programs, however, that attempt to save truckers from the bad driving of four-wheelers.

This summer in Maryland they launched the Smooth Operator program where more than 50 law enforcement agencies across the state will be part of a campaign aimed at thwarting motorists who tailgate, speed and cut off semis. The program includes increased enforcement, billboards and social media.

In the past five years on Maryland roads, 299 people died and 12,951 people were injured in crashes involving a large commercial truck or cross-country bus, said State Police Capt. Norman "Bill" Dofflemyer, who commands the commercial vehicle enforcement division.

Spurred by their desire to get ahead of slower-moving trucks, motorists abandon safe practices they have been taught. The problem is exacerbated when road rage becomes part of the mix, Dofflemyer told the Baltimore Sun.

"The idea of teaching the other guy a lesson is not worth it and is totally unacceptable," Dofflemyer said.

Last year, in 80% of accidents involving a car and truck primary fault for the crash belonged to the car driver, Maryland statistics show. Police officers issued 400,000 tickets and warnings for aggressive driving in 2012.

On his way to an event at M&T Bank Stadium in mid-July to help launch the campaign, trucker Luis Jaramillo told the Sun he was cut off...three times.

"You have those 'Oh, boy,' moments and your life can flash in front of your eyes," said Jaramillo, a driver supervisor for UPS. "As big and as brown as we are, to a lot of drivers we're invisible."

"We have to be better than the drivers around us," said Jaramillo. "The biggest thing we can do is anticipate what people will do - because they do it."

While many states are adopting similar safety campaigns to help protect truckers from car drivers, the Federal Highway Administration's No-Zone Campaign was launched in 1994 to help reduce car-truck crashes, injuries, fatalities, and property loss by educating the motoring public about how to safely share the road with commercial vehicles.

The principal No-Zone campaign goal is to increase motorist awareness of commercial motor vehicle limitations. The No-Zone represents areas around trucks and buses where vehicles are not visible to truck and bus drivers, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.

Hundreds of law enforcement, educator, insurance, truck industry, and state government partners deliver No-Zone messages throughout the country at such places as highway rest areas, schools, conventions, conferences, driver education classes, state fairs, and shopping malls. Over two-thirds of the 50 states and District of Columbia report active involvement.

For example, on July 22 the Ohio Trucking Assn. posted the following on their Facebook page. "Getting all ready for the No-Zone Exhibit at the 2013 Ohio State Fair! Be sure to stop by and say hello to the industry representatives giving their time to teach young and old the dangers of 'hanging out in the 'No-Zone'."

The study found that Share the Road information is included in drivers' manuals in 34 states and there is continuing effort to include Share the Road information in all state drivers manuals.

An award winning web site that receives about 40,000 hits per month has been developed to provide information and materials for both truckers and the public. The No-Zone message was also presented on radio and television; on billboards; and in journals, magazines, and newspapers nationwide.

Highly successful No-Zone demonstrations that provide the public with an opportunity to sit in a truck cab, meet professional drivers, and experience motor carrier visibility limitations will be expanded through promotion in a "tool kit" outreach packet. Also, a No-Zone toll-free number to provide access to available materials and information is being established.

More than 4,400 No-Zone decals appear on large trucks and buses nationwide. Carriers voluntarily place No-Zone decals to show their commitment to highway safety by taking these messages on the road, and to special events and meetings.

Plans to develop a high-tech customized Share the Road tractor-trailer featuring state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment to disseminate various highway safety messages are under way. The plan will indicate a strategy for widespread media coverage and private sector involvement.

The "No-Zone" represents the danger areas around trucks and buses where crashes are more likely to occur. Some No-Zones are actual blind spots or areas around trucks and buses where your car "disappears" from the view of the drivers. These blind spots are the Side No-Zone, Rear No-Zone, and Front No-Zone areas. The right-side blind spot is doubly dangerous because trucks and buses make wide right turns.

The "No-Zone" program warns of the following situations motorists should avoid:

Side No-Zones

"Don't "hang out" on either side of trucks or buses. Trucks and buses have big No-Zones (blind spots) on both sides. They're much larger than your car's blind spots. If you can't see the driver's face in the side-view mirror, the driver can't see you. If that driver needs to swerve or change lanes for any reason, you're in big trouble!"

Rear No-Zones

"Avoid Tailgating! Unlike cars, trucks and buses have huge No-Zones directly behind them. The truck or bus driver can't see your car there, and you can't see what's going on ahead of you. If the truck or bus driver brakes or stops suddenly, you have no place to go and could end up running into them.

"Pay Closer Attention! Never cross behind a truck that is backing up! Hundreds of motorists and pedestrians are killed or injured, each year, by ignoring trucks backing up. Truck drivers have no rear-view mirror and may not see you cutting in behind them."

Front No-Zones

"Pass Safely! You could get 'rear-ended' by a truck or bus if you 'cut-in front' too soon after passing, then immediately slow down. If you do this, truck and bus drivers are forced to slam on their brakes. They need nearly twice the time and room to stop as cars. So, when passing, look for the whole front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front, and then don't slow down!"

Wide Right Turns

"Avoid the 'Squeeze Play'! Truck and bus drivers sometimes need to swing wide to the left in order to safely make a right turn. They can't see cars directly behind or beside them. Trying to 'squeeze' in between the commercial vehicle and the curb is an invitation for disaster!"

For more information or to get materials to get involved in the No-Zone campaign visit:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/commuting/bs-md-aggressive-driving-20130716,0,2935491.story

https://www.facebook.com/ohiotruckingassociation?hc_location=stream

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