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Troopers cracking down on road rage against truckers

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By Lisa King

Drivers need to be more considerate when sharing the road with truckers or face the increasing possibility that they could be ticketed by the Kentucky State Police.

KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer announced this week the launch of a "TACT" campaign (Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks) to address hostile driving behaviors between commercial motor vehicles and motorists.

"Research shows that most crashes involving a commercial vehicle and a motorist could be avoided if drivers knew how to steer clear of unsafe situations," he said. "With this campaign, we hope to increase awareness of safer driving practices and make a positive change in the risky driving behavior of motorists."

KSP's statistics show that in recent years 72 percent of all fatal crashes involving commercial trucks were caused by non-commercial drivers.

Beginning this month and continuing throughout the year, troopers will be keeping an eye out on some of the state's most dangerous interstate highways, where trucks and passenger vehicles have had numerous crashes.

Violations would include excessive speeding, improper lane changing, reckless driving and not leaving sufficient space around all vehicles, and Brewer said they will be strictly enforced.

David Leddy, the TACT program coordinator for KSP, said that last year citations by officers were up 45 percent more than in 2006, which greatly reduced the number of accidents.

"Injury collisions involving CMVs [commercial motor vehicles] decreased 36 percent in the I-75 enforcement corridor and 45 percent on the I-65 enforcement corridor during the past year, compared to the previous three-year average," he said.

This project will focus on violations by all drivers in two of the worse crash areas in Kentucky, I-75 in northern Kentucky and I-65 south of Louisville, in Jefferson and Bullitt counties, but the dangerous practices can be found on I-64 as well.

In Shelby County, the most dangerous stretch of I-64 is between mile markers 30 and 38 - roughly 3 miles east and west of Shelbyville - the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said.

Detective Jason Rice said that during the past few years there have been numerous deadly crashes in that area, including three fatalities on the same bridge, located between exits 32 and 35, near Old Finchville Road.

"I remember last year, we had a fatality there that was strange," he said. "A dog survived the crash, but couldn't be found, and then he turned up a couple of days later, sitting on the bank on the exact spot where the car went into the creek."

Rice also recalls a deadly crash a few years early, on Easter Sunday, when an infant was the only survivor. Both its parents were killed in the crash.

He said speed plays a major role in interstate highway deaths.

"You're getting up to enormous speeds, so any type of malfunction, either vehicular or by driver, magnifies itself one hundredfold to the point where death or serious injury becomes imminent," he said.

KSP's blitz begins on I-75 in Fayette, Madison and Scott counties, from mile marker 76 at Berea to mile marker 129 at Georgetown. There will also be a new enforcement area north and south of Elizabethtown on I-65 in Hardin, Hart and Larue counties, from mile marker 58 at Horse Cave to mile marker 105 at Lebanon Junction.

Two-week blitz periods in each area will take place in October, February and September 2009.

Sam Mason, operations manager for JD Taylor Sons & Daughters Moving in Middletown, has this advice for people when driving near large trucks.

"Don't ride in a trucker's blind spot and don't cut him off," he said. "These are two really big problems for truckers.

"I guess people think because trucks are big and slow, they can just whiz around them. And blind spots are really dangerous, because trucks are so long and it's a much larger blind area than it is for people in cars. People just don't realize that."

Pamela Rice, administrator of the Kentucky Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said TACT is a good way to remind drivers of the need to be more careful around trucks.

"More so than cars, large trucks need extra room to maneuver and stop," she said. "When you give them the space they need, tragedy can be adverted and lives can be saved."