Highway administration plans campaign to reduce number of car-truck collisions

December 06, 1992|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

Maryland's State Highway Administration (SHA) has been selected by the federal government to develop a nationwide public information campaign aimed at reducing the number of accidents involving cars and tractor-trailer trucks.

The Federal Highway Administration is expected to announce tomorrow that it plans to award the state $350,000 to develop the advertising campaign with the objective of educating motorists on how to safely share the road with tractor-trailers.

Heavy trucks are involved in nearly 400,000 reported accidents each year nationwide. In 1990, truck crashes resulted in 5,318 deaths -- 12 percent of all highway fatalities -- while 85 percent of the victims were occupants of the other vehicles.

Maryland has mirrored the trend: a disproportionate share of accidents and fatalities on state roads involve trucks. Last year, trucks were involved in 75 of the 646 fatal accidents, or 11.6 percent, according to state police statistics.

Experts claim many of those accidents were preventable because the majority were caused by driver error rather than mechanical failure.

SHA officials said they will use the federal grant to hire a private company to create nationwide public service advertisements for television, radio and print media for next year.

The ads would, among other things, remind motorists that trucks have blind spots to their rear and can't stop as quickly as cars.

"There's been a lot of negative feeling among car drivers toward trucks, a fear that comes from a lack of understanding," said Tom Hicks, director of SHA's Office of Traffic and Safety. "We need to find a clever way to teach motorists about the differences between cars and trucks."

Mr. Hicks said he expects the program to be similar to the state's 3-year-old "Drive to Survive" public information campaign that urges motorists to drive safely -- to not to drink and drive, for instance, and to wear a safety belt.

Maryland trucking industry leaders said they welcomed the prospect of a new public awareness campaign since it reflects their own concerns that the public needs to be better informed about trucks.

The typical problems truckers said they frequently encounter are motorists who dart around trucks in heavy traffic, expecting them to be able to maneuver like a sports car .

Another trouble spot for truckers -- cars that pass on the right when a big rig is about to make a right-hand turn.

"In a congested area like the Baltimore-Washington corridor, it's important that people learn to get along with trucks," said Walter C. Thompson, executive vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

"We have to share the road together. . . ."

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