Washington State will launch a three-tiered campaign combining education, enforcement and research to target motorists driving in any manner that could cause large truck accidents along two stretches of I-5. On July 11 state troopers will begin their 12-day campaign riding in decoy semi-trucks as well as a helicopter to alert awaiting patrol cars of car drivers who maneuver dangerously around trucks.
State patrols in conjunction with local police along I-5 will enforce the corridor running from the Starbord Road interchange in Skagit County north to Chuckanut Dr., just south of Bellingham in Whatcom County. The other corridor will start at the Scott Lake interchange in Thurston County and end at the SR-512 interchange in Pierce County.
A media campaign designed to raise awareness of the extra enforcement will accompany the program, which will include road signs, radio ads and banners on trucks.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) organized the program thanks to a $600,000 federal grant earmarked by Congress and distributed to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.
The results of the action in the two corridors will be compared with two “control” corridors, where police will observe car interaction with trucks but not utilize the added enforcement for comparison.
On Sept. 19 through 30 WTSC will repeat the campaign. The results of the “second wave” will be measured with the first to determine the effectiveness of the campaign.
The funding was provided in recognition that nearly three-fourths of all accidents nationally involving large trucks and autos are initiated by autos. In the state of Washington, that rate is down to 62%.
This is the result of an aggressive Commercial Vehicle Division component among state troopers as well as its Step Up and Ride Program launched two years ago, which also put troopers inside commercial vehicles to enforce safe driving around trucks, said Lowell Porter, WTSC director.
“Troopers can see these cars driving dangerously and that program proved effective in terms of the enforcement side,” Porter told Fleet Owner. “An assertive driving apprehension team as well as unmarked teams working very hard to specifically target smaller vehicles driving aggressively has had a huge [positive] impact on safety. When you have a strong commercial vehicle awareness in terms of education and enforcement, over time you have significantly reduced fatalities in Washington compared with similar states.
“The federal government was going to take our program and base on the ‘Click It or Ticket’ model: create a strong public awareness, backed with strict enforcement and scientific data so you can prove that program is working,” Porter continued, adding that Congress intends to use Washington as a test bed for a national campaign to encourage automobiles to drive safety around trucks.