The tractor trailers, motorcoaches, and other large commercial motor vehicles on America's roadways play a vital role in our nation’s economy.They use our roadways the same as any personal vehicle, but because of their size, shape, and handling, drivers need to treat them differently than other cars on the road.
Too many drivers of passenger cars --particularly young drivers-- endanger themselves by failing to recognize that trucks and cars perform quite differently. For example, trucks require longer distances to brake; they have larger blind spots than cars; and they are difficult to see around.
That's why the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance created "Teens And Trucks" to help educate novice drivers about driving safely near commercial vehicles. And Wednesday, Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari joined Teens And Trucks to help launch a new curriculum that does exactly that.
The "Teens And Trucks" partners hope to help young drivers counter that lack of experience and the dangerous enticement of texting and cell phone conversations through a new curriculum, “Teens & Trucks—Curbing Distracted Driving.” The new instructional video and course materials were developed with a grant from DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Like all complex behaviors, driving is challenging for novices. Through years of driving observation, experienced drivers learn how trucks and motorcoaches handle and how to make safe choices when we're behind the wheel near large commercial vehicles. Young drivers don't have the benefit of that experience.
We also know that young drivers are operating amid a sea of potential distractions, including the dangerous habit of texting or talking on a cell phone. As Deputy Secretary Porcari said Wednesday, "When it comes to our youngest and most inexperienced drivers, teens are among the most likely to text and talk behind the wheel. And since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, the stakes couldn’t be higher."
One young woman who knows about the dangers of driving distracted, particularly near large trucks, is Amanda Kloehr. In 2008, Amanda was driving with what she calls a carful of distractions --"my cell phone, my GPS, the radio, all of these things in my car"-- when the car she was driving smashed into the back of a stopped tractor trailer: "I looked away from the road long enough to not realize the tractor-trailer had stopped, and I ran into the back of it going 65 or 70 miles an hour."
After having undergone 20 surgeries, a coma, and facial reconstruction, Amanda is telling her story so other young drivers can learn from her tragic experience. And on Wednesday, she joined the "Teens And Trucks" safety rally to share her message.
That message is remarkably simple but couldn't be more important: Driving requires good judgment and your full attention...every trip, every time.