Virginia Unveils New Curriculum to Help Teens Avoid Deadly Crashes

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The most dangerous part of any teenager’s day is the time they spend behind the wheel. Parents rely on driver’s education teachers to teach teens to drive. Now, those instructors have another valuable tool to help teens navigate Virginia’s roadways safely.

DRIVE SMART Virginia has created the Sharing the Road with Trucks curriculum with a grant from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Sharing the Road will help teach high school students in tenth grade how to drive safely around large trucks. The Sharing the Road curriculum is the first in the nation to be mandated in public schools. “Teen drivers have limited experience driving.  This curriculum will give them information to make safe and smart decisions, driving around large trucks,” said Janet Brooking, Executive Director of DRIVE SMART Virginia. “We’re delighted to bring this program to Virginia, and that our safety partners recognize the need to make this a priority.”

In the U.S. between 2005 and 2009 nearly 4,000 16-to-24 year-olds were killed in crashes involving large trucks (DOT). In Virginia the number of traffic crashes decreased from 2009 to 2010. However crashes involving commercial vehicles increased 26% during the same period.  A recent Virginia Tech Transportation study found that 78% of crashes involving commercial motor vehicles were caused by passenger vehicle drivers. Those crashes were largely due to a lack of awareness and understanding about the special considerations involved with sharing the road with trucks. Roughly one-third of fatal crashes involving a car and a large truck occurred in one of the blind spots surrounding the truck, according to the American Trucking Associations.

“We’re delighted to have this tool,” said Vanessa Wigand who oversees driver’s education training for the Virginia Department of Education. “The Sharing the Road with Trucks curriculum will help young drivers better understand the dangers associated with driving around and passing trucks.”

The Sharing the Road curriculum includes information about:

• No zone – front, rear, left and right, areas around the truck where crashes are most likely to occur

• Passing  – drivers should signal and move steadily around the truck

• Merging – truck blind spots make it difficult to see passenger cars

• Stopping distance – for trucks,  40% greater than car

“This will be a valuable resource for driver’s education instruction in Virginia,” said Dale Bennett, President and CEO of the Virginia Trucking Association. “Virginia’s trucking industry works hard to reduce the number of crashes involving commercial vehicles, especially those involving teen and younger drivers, and this curriculum is designed to help us do that.”

DRIVE SMART Virginia is a traffic safety non-profit organization created in 1995 with the goal of making Virginia’s roadways the safest in the nation. Additional partners include Virginia Department of Education, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Virginia Trucking Association and the Virginia State Police.

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