Posted: Jul 13, 2012 4:19 PM by Irina Cates - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 13, 2012 7:53 PM
MISSOULA - Trucking industry experts gave Missoula Sentinel High School driver's education students a realistic experience of how to safely share the road with semi trucks.
When they got into the cab of a semi truck, students saw what truck drivers do and do not see while they're on the road.
"I didn't see any of the cars they asked me to look for and then they said to look at the blind spot mirror, you could see everything from those," said Joshua Firth, a driver's ed student.
Instructors parked pick-ups in te semi's blind spots, showing students how not all trucks have blind spot mirrors.
"When you're behind a truck and you're following too close, you're in the blind area. The trucker can't see you, he doesn't know you're there, he doesn't know how to react safely in a situation not know that you're there," says Kevin Ernst, Motor Carriers of Montana Safety Director. "You shouldn't linger, you got to get around those trucks. If you're hanging along side of them, you're just increasing your risk."
Crash investigators say sometimes when a car gets into a wreck with a semi, ironically, it's because the driver of the car didn't see the semi.
"Tractor trailers aren't required to operate in the right hand lane, so lots of times they move to the left and people will merge into them not knowing they're there and not checking their own blind spots," says Trooper Philip Smart, Montana Highway Patrol.
It's also important not to take away a truckers stopping distance.
"You're looking at approximately 365 feet. When these trucks slam on the brakes, it takes them a while to stop," said Ernst.
"Tractor trailers know how long it will take them to stop, so they'll give a lot of space in front of them where they can do that and people in passenger cars will continue to merge into that space," added Smart.
Smart also says if trucker crashes into you because you took away their stopping distance, chances are you'll be the one to get the ticket.
Motor Carriers of Montana hopes to make this presentation an annual event and hopes to reach Driver's Ed programs across the state.