BOUNTIFUL — Fifteen-year-old Zachary Eggett celebrates his sweet 16th birthday this month. He plans on getting his driver’s license on April 11, his birthday. He is a 10-grade student in Lane Herrick’s driver’s education class at Bountiful High School. They had a special lesson last Thursday.
The school partners with “Truck Smart,” a Utah Department of Transportation sponsored safety program implemented in more than 85 high schools in the state of Utah. The program is designed to teach new teenage drivers how to prevent crashes when driving around big semitrucks.
Truck Smart outreach specialist Natalie Lovell says learning how to maneuver trucks is especially important in Utah.
“Here in Utah, we have more trucks on our roads than any other state in the country,” she said. Nearly 25 percent of all vehicles on Utah’s roads are large trucks, greatly surpassing the national average of only 13 percent.
With the crossing of I-15 and I-80, two of the busiest interstates the country, Utahns see more semitrucks on our roads than the rest of the country.
Safety trainer and driver Rachel Snow of Pride Transport, an independent trucking company, let each student take a turn sitting behind the wheel in her truck. She showed each student where the blind spots are.
Eggett was surprised by how little he could see from the driver’s seat. He said, “I thought they could see just fine, but it’s a little harder than I thought.” Eggett said he couldn’t see any of the kids who were standing right next to the car.
Snow encouraged the students to pass trucks on the left side instead of the right side, which gives the driver increased visibility.
She taught the students to leave enough room between the passenger vehicle and the truck and to make sure the students can see the driver’s face in the mirror. Since semitrucks need more space and time to slow down than other vehicles, Snow encouraged the students to signal long enough for the truck driver to understand what they intended.
In 2017, there were 37 truck-related fatalities in the state of Utah. Unfortunately, 75 percent of the time, the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault, according to UDOT.
“The statistic is that 10 percent of teens in Utah will get in a crash with a commercial vehicle before they even turn 20,” Lovell said.
After the lesson, Eggett said he felt much more confident sharing the road with truck drivers. He said the little tips he learned like passing on the left instead of the right side were super helpful.
Visit Truck Smart for more tips on how to safely drive around semitrucks.