Because Bland County is home to a major interstate, local drivers are used to weaving through traffic with tractor-trailers. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

If fact, most adults have not learned how to properly drive with trucks along the highway – a detail that has not escaped the American Trucking Association, which is teaching students nationwide how to stay safe around big rigs.

Recently, the ATA’s Share the Road program came to Bland County.

“We want to show you how to share the road safely with a truck so you won’t be so afraid of trucks,” said David Boyer, a road driver for ABF Freight System Inc. in Wytheville.

Boyer was one of three million-mile, accident-free professional truck drivers delivering life-saving safety tips to students at Bland High School. The drivers also visited Rural Retreat High School, George Wythe High School and Fort Chiswell High School.

According to Boyer, 75 percent of all truck-involved fatalities are unintentionally initiated by car drivers.

By teaching motorists about blind spots, safe merging and following distances, how long it takes a fully loaded tractor-trailer to stop, and other safety tips, Share the Road hopes to change driving habits and help make the county’s roadways safer.

On hand to help with the presentation was Robert French of Bland, the 2006 National Truck Driving Champion, Twin Trailers Class.

“It’s a wonderful program,” French said. “It gives these kids information on how to drive safely around trucks and live safely with trucks. It teaches them not to hang out around a truck. Stay a safe distance away from a truck, whether you are in front of one, behind one or on the sides.

As part of their presentation, the truckers took students outside to a tractor-trailer parked between two cars. Students took turns sitting in the truck driver’s seat, looking out of the rear view mirrors. None of the students could see the cars because the cars were parked in the truck’s blind side.

Most motorists are not taught that there are large blind spots on all four sides of a truck, Boyer said. The largest is on the passenger’s side of the truck. It reaches across three lanes of traffic and runs the length of the truck.

“If you cannot see our face in our side mirrors, then we cannot see you, and you are in our blind spot,” he explained. “And if you have to pass a truck, pass on the driver’s side because it has the shortest blind spot.”

Hopping out of the big rig, Bland eighth-grader Cameron Ray Goodsell, 14, said the program was very educational.

“It will really help me a lot when I start driving, to know where the blind spots are and knowing that driving through the truck’s side air draft is dangerous, it can make you lose control of your car.

‘It’s a very good program for people who are just learning to drive,” Goodsell said.

Fellow eighth-grader Kayla Coleman, 14, agreed with her classmate.

“You wouldn’t think you could be so close to a truck that size and the driver can’t see you,” she said. “It opened my eyes quite a bit.”

Boyer said he hopes his safety message saves lives, young and old alike.

“We care about you,’ he told the students. “Don’t think that truck drivers don’t care about other drivers on the road, because we do.”

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