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Little Rock, Arkansas

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Truck Drivers need to Share the Road

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ROGERS, ARKANSAS – Imagine driving from Bentonville to Little Rock. Now imagine doing that 12,600 times in an 80,000 pound vehicle and never causing an accident or getting into a fender bender.

Wal-Mart truck driver Danny Ewell, who has logged 2.7 million miles without a preventable accident, was on hand Thursday at a safety event to help other drivers avert danger. “You actually won’t be able to see that truck, even as big as it is,” Ewell said as he showed how large the blind spot is when you’re up in a big rig.

Most drivers on the road don’t realize a truck’s blind spot extends all the way to the back of the vehicle, he said. They also don’t realize a truck trying to stop from 60 miles an hour will go the length of a football field before stopping. “A lot of people cut us off too quickly,” he said. “They don’t do it intentionally, but they don’t give us enough room.”

The Share the Road program, started in 1986 to prevent accidents between cars and trucks, brought drivers such as Ewell to Rogers on Thursday in the group’s quest to lower the accident rate on the highway.

Ewell said since 1980, trucking miles have increased 42 percent, with a 50 percent accident fatality rate during the same period of time. “The more we educate drivers the better off we’ll be,” he said.

The driver said he was taught to work a tractor-trailer before he learned to operate a normal vehicle. His father would take him out to an empty parking lot as a 13-year-old and show him the ropes. Thursday, he showed a group of journalists the ropes as he navigated a big rig out of the Pleasant Crossing Wal-Mart parking lot and onto Interstate 540. “Really, people don’t understand what it takes to get around this corner,” he said as he tried to turn left out of the parking lot, waiting patiently as car after car cut him off.

Mike Russell, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said Thursday the message drivers need to hear is the same as the group’s name: Share the Road.

On any given day, there’s 3 million trucks out on the road, Russell said, and drivers in passenger vehicles and in tractor-trailers need to pay attention. “As you drive you’re going to be behind a truck for just a second or two, but it’s important to have an idea of what could happen if you aren’t aware of them,” he said.

Brian Harwood, corporal with the Arkansas Highway Patrol, said in his role of investigating truck accidents, he sees all sorts of mishaps between vehicles. Several weeks ago, he said, a car tried to pass a truck on the right shoulder of the highway, then was cut off when the trucker didn’t see the vehicle and took a right at the next exit.

Harwood said drivers in passenger vehicles should stay 20 to 25 car lengths behind a truck on the highway to avoid obstacles a truck might hit, but acknowledged that’s often difficult on congested freeways. “In northwest Arkansas, that’s not a reality,” he said. “Rush hour, you’d be lucky to get three to four car lengths.”

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