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This program hopes to save lives by teaching teens how to drive with trucks

Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 18:10:43-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- When taking to the highway in Richmond, there's hardly a time that you won't see tractor-trailers traveling through.

Most drivers don't get the chance to see the road the way that truckers do which is why some experts are taking their safety message to the streets, targeting teens who are just starting their driving careers.

Matt Camden is with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and will travel to 80 high schools this year to educate students.

"Some of our messages include making sure to pass safely. That means passing on the left, going by at a steady speed and not cutting off a truck. We also talk about the four blind spots on a tractor-trailer and if we're driving in those blind spots, the tractor-trailer will not be able to see us," Camden said.

For more than three decades, VTTI has studied heavy vehicle crashes and conducted research about how other drivers interact with 18-wheelers.

"We know that 80% of all fatalities that occur when a car hits a truck come from the people inside the car. We also tell the students that 78% of crashes and near-crashes are caused by smaller vehicle drivers and we drive home that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens," Camden said.

They want young drivers to keep that safety message at top of their minds when they hit the interstate. One of the best ways they say is to give a firsthand look, so during the program, every student gets to sit in the driver's seat of a tractor-trailer.

Dave Pelletier has been driving tractor-trailers for 32 years and knows how crucial this education is for young drivers.

"Education is a great place to start because most people don't know how long it takes to stop a truck, how much you can weigh and how much turning space we need. If the kids learn from the get-go, that education is possibly saving lives," Pelletier said.

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