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Teens pledge safer summer with tips on driving around big trucks

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, left, stands with students at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., Thursday during the program “With Teens and Trucks.” (Courtesy: FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION)

The Trucker News Services

6/3/2011

BETHESDA, Md.  – Teenagers from the National Capital region Thursday pledged to make this summer safer for all drivers by giving large trucks plenty of room, avoiding their blind spots and signing a “No Texting Promise” during a truck safety demonstration organized by national safety officials and families of distracted driving crash victims.

Standing beside a 53-foot long tractor trailer in front of Walt Whitman High School, officials representing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance spoke to students from Maryland and the District of Columbia about the critical importance of driving safely around big trucks.

A fully loaded tractor trailer requires roughly twice the distance to stop that a passenger vehicle requires, officials told students.  In addition, tractor trailers have sizeable blind spots, otherwise known as “No Zones,” areas that motorist must avoid.

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“We want everyone to be safe, but as newer drivers, teens must adhere to a few simple rules,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said.  “They are: buckle up, don’t drink and drive; don’t speed, don’t text or use your phone, and steer clear of a truck’s blind spots.”

The latest data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that the deadliest days of the year for teens ages 15-19 are in the months of May, June, July and August.

During these four months, nearly twice as many teens died on the roads each day as compared to the rest of the year – for an average of nearly 16 deaths per day (15.9) – compared to an average of nearly nine deaths (8.8) per day during the year as a whole. 

Individuals in the 16 to 24 age group have the highest traffic crash death rate in the county.  Between 2005 and 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available), nearly 4,000 people from this age group were killed in crashes involving large trucks .

"Prom, graduation, and summer are fantastic times for youth to celebrate and enjoy.  However, with these fun times come unfortunate tragedies,” said Sandy Spavone, NOYS president, said. “Through education, enforcement, and legislation lives can be saved and injuries prevented."

“Do not expect that having a driver's license is a right that comes without responsibility or risk,” said Steve Keppler, executive director of the CVSA.  “Be accountable for your actions, spread the word to your friends and parents, and help create a culture of safety. Most importantly, take the driving task seriously. You never know the impact you can have that ultimately could save your life or someone else's."

During the presentation, the students also heard stories of personal tragedies from distracted driving crash victims.  

On the day of her graduation from Muhlenberg College in May 2008, Jacy Good of White Plains, N.Y., was involved in a crash on a Berks County, Pennsylvania, road that was caused by an 18-year-old driver who was on his cell phone and failed to observe a red light.  Good was severely injured in the crash; both of her parents, Jean and Jay Good, were killed.

Laurie Kelly of Takoma Park, Maryland, spoke of her 23-year-old son, Dan Woldtvedt, who died on his way to his first job after college.  He was using his cell phone at the time of the crash that occurred in Colorado.

Following the presentation by the speakers, students were given a demonstration of the tractor-trailer’s “No Zones” by a member of the Maryland State Police.   Students also signed a “No Texting Promise” poster.

The “Teens and Trucks” educational tool kit, including radio and television public service spots, is available for downloading free of charge at www.cvsa.org/programs/teens_and_trucks_toolkit.aspx  or at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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