The Herald Bulletin

June 13, 2013

PHHS driving students learn to 'Share the Road'

Program focuses attention on tractor-trailers' blind spots

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — PENDLETON — Just because you can see them doesn't mean they can see you.

Anyone who's taken a driver's education course has likely heard a line similar to this about truckers' blind spots, but Pendleton Heights High School's 17 driver's education students got to see those tricky spots in the mirrors themselves Thursday morning during "Share the Road."

The program, sponsored by Greencastle's Walmart and offered to schools at no charge, gives students interactions with the store's semi drivers and a hands-on lesson about the safety of sharing the road.

"It's something they'll have to do for the rest of their lives," driver Michael Toole added.

While teaching students how to drive alongside semis, he said they touch on topics such as the dangers of driving alongside a tractor trailer for an extended period of time with the potential of tire blowouts and the longer length of time it takes for a tractor-trailer to stop.

Knowing many of the kids will soon be driving to Hamilton Town Center to go shopping and see movies, driving instructor Tony Candiano said he just wants the students to learn to be safe around semis they'll see on the interstate.

Pendleton high schooler Clay Miller said they'd practiced driving on I-69 just the day before and spotted numerous tractor-trailers.

"I was nervous before," he said of sharing the road with semis. "Now that I know more about the blind spots I'm not as nervous."

Alexa Douglas said they got to "see what (the semi drivers) can't see," and it wasn't what she expected.

The drivers' greatest blind spot is on the right side, and if it's raining, it's even more difficult to spot a vehicle trying to pass. That's why, Toole said, drivers should always pass on the left and turn their headlights on in the rain.

This is the second year Pendleton Heights has had Walmart out and Candiano said that the hands-on experience the students get is "not something they often times get to do."

Toole said Greencastle's Walmart goes to about 20 schools over the summer with the program.

Richard Morgan, a truck driver for 42 years, helped get the program started when he knew they "needed to do something" to help teen drivers be safer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among youth, and 80,000 pounds of tractor-trailer against about 4,000 pounds of car aren't good odds.

Morgan said they are reaching more students.

"As long as we can save one life it's well worth it," he said.

One of the biggest issues is distracted driving. Sitting up high, the semi drivers said they've seen all sorts of crazy things.

Morgan once spotted a woman sitting Indian style in her seat, a book open on the steering wheel.

"You'd be surprised to see how many phones there are in laps," he added.

Taking your eyes off the road to read a text is like driving the length of a football field blind.

"I feel like this helps a lot," Miller said of the course. He added that he's excited for his independence, but wants to be safe to avoid accidents.

Before the kids hit the road on their own, they'll have to complete 30 hours of class time and six hours of driving.

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