Big Trucks and You: The Patrol That Could Soon Go State Wide

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Big Trucks and You: The Patrol That Could Soon Go State Wide

Tuesday's test run has been in the works for about a month. A trucking company loaned out a truck and a driver to state police.

INDIANAPOLIS--Big trucks can't stop instantly. They need time and space. State troopers are reminding you of that and they wrote tickets during a special patrol Tuesday morning. A state trooper spotted people who weren't driving right and radioed to other troopers who stopped them and gave tickets.

"Commercial vehicles are big, they're heavy. They take a lot of extra time to stop. When somebody cuts in front of a truck when that truck is leaving a safe stopping distance between him and the vehicle in front of him, they've pretty much wiped out his ability to safely stop," said Commander John Smithers, in charge of commercial vehicle enforcement for Indiana State Police.

"That's not a violation on his part. That's a violation of the car's part."

Truck drivers train and some of them have equipment to help them stop. But, Mark Baker, a driver for Carter Express, said you need to give a truck room in front.

"It depends on how much weight you have on. But, if you're fully loaded and someone stops quick, you're probably gonna need at least 300 feet, I would estimate," said Baker. He volunteered his time to drive the trooper, who spotted violators.

The patrol was designed not only to catch aggressive drivers, but anyone who was committing violations due to distracted driving.

"We're...using the unique perspective of being up high in the truck, with a trooper in the truck, to look for things we can't normally see: people texting, doing anything that might distract and cause them to commit a traffic violation," said Smithers, who pointed out that Indiana doesn't have a distracted driving law, but that you can be ticketed for any violation caused by distracted driving, like swerving, speeding, or driving recklessly.

"Nationally it's over 25 percent of all commercial vehicle accidents are caused by distracted drivers," said John Baugh, president of Carter Express. He said his drivers are well-trained, and Baker uses special equipment that helps him stop quickly.

"It's Smart Drive technology. If you're in cruise control, it'll slow you down, maintain a safe following distance. If you come up on something too fast, it'll apply the brake for you," he said.

But, neither state police nor drivers depend solely on machinery, and the patrols may become regular and may end up being state wide.

"If we do it again, the first couple of times will be in the Indianapolis area," said Smithers. "But, then we'll start moving it around the state, maybe quarterly."

Other states conduct the same types of patrols, and some more aggressively. The Tennessee state patrol purchased its own semi rig. While Indiana is "not there yet", Smithers said state troopers are looking for people who are not staying focused on the road, whether from a truck or a patrol car.

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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