VTTI Outreach Team Teaches Local Students About Driver Safety

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Blacksburg High School students and the Sharing the Road team in front of the VTTI truck. Photo by Jacob Levin for Virginia Tech.

Research shows that car, pickup truck, and SUV drivers, including teens, initiate more than 75 percent of incidents involving heavy trucks. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) Sharing the Road with Trucks program is dedicated to reversing this by educating this group of young drivers.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve done a lot of research to identify contributing factors to heavy vehicle crashes,” said Matt Camden, team leader for VTTI’s Research to Practice and Outreach group. “This program puts those lessons learned to practice so that we can teach people what we know about these types of crashes and what causes them, which ultimately leads to a future of safer drivers.”

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Camden and VTTI researchers Mark Golusky and Scott Tidwell lead the VTTI Sharing the Road team that travels to high schools across the mid-Atlantic to provide engaging learning opportunities for new teen drivers.

Since the program began, the team has instructed over 13,000 students in virtual and in-person visits across five states: Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, Maryland, and West Virginia. Now, with a new $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s High Priority Grant program to continue the outreach, the team estimates that the Sharing the Road program will be able to reach up to an additional 9,000 students this academic year.

One of the events that helps to build toward this goal and the mission of increasing driver safety was at Blacksburg High School on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Across the two-day series of sessions, nearly 200 driver’s education students learned how to safely share the road with trucks.

During the demonstration, teen participants had the opportunity to see a semitruck up close and experience the large blind spots from a semitruck driver’s perspective from behind the steering wheel to reinforce how difficult it is to see surrounding objects.

Through the support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Delaware Department of Transportation, Delaware State Police, the West Virginia Public Service Commission, and Virginia State Police, law enforcement personnel are available at most of the demonstrations to discuss driver safety. In addition, the Virginia Trucking Association and the Delaware Motor Transport Association are active partners who help coordinate trucks and drivers to assist in the demonstration at some school locations. Although most of the demonstrations have occurred in the mid-Atlantic, the VTTI Sharing the Road team can travel to any state with its goal to become a nationwide program to help save lives.

While the program is designed to be completed in person, this is not always possible. With funding from the National Safety Council, a video series was created to further educate all drivers on how to safely share the road with large trucks. This video series is designed to present the same information covered during a hands-on demonstration.

For more information or to schedule a visit, email [email protected] or visit the website.