WJBF EXTRA: Big Rig Dangers

WJBF EXTRA: Big Rig Dangers (Image 1)

By Mary Morrison

They zoom by us on the highway…

The food we eat, clothes we wear, even the cars we drive…are brought to market by these giants of the road.

Captain Bruce Bugg, Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Division: “A lot of trucks, a lot of traffic moving through the state for the economy…”

With so much traffic, it's no wonder the state is fourth in the nation for fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles.

The average tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds…and average full size SUV weighs 6,000 pounds.

Capt. Bugg: “Anytime you have a collision involving a very large rig and a small vehicle, the smaller vehicle will wind up the loser.”

In 2002, Cullum Owings lost his life in such an accident. On Thanksgiving weekend, he and his brother were traveling back to college in Virginia when they were rear-ended by a speeding tractor-trailer.

Pierce Owings, Cullum Owings' brother: “I was in the passenger side and he whipped over into the median trying to avoid what was coming fast behind us and I saw something hit us like a freight train, turning the car around. Before I knew it, I was sitting there, Cullum was hunched over next to me.”

Mary Morrison, reporting: “Cullum Owings was laid to rest in Westover Cemetery in Augusta. His death, while tragic, gave birth to an organization dedicated to saving lives.”

Road Safe America was founded by Cullum's father, Steve. The group wants Congress to require trucks to use speed regulators.

Steve Owings, Cullum Owings' father: “Every heavy duty truck made worldwide since 1992 comes equipped with speed limiting ability…and in every other industrialized nation in the world, they are already required to be set.”

Even the American Trucking Association is in favor of speed regulators.

Capt. Bugg: “If the regulation comes about, the law comes about, we will enforce it.”

Captain Bruce Bugg is the Region Four commander of the Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Division. His officers inspect big rigs at the weigh station in Columbia County. Their efforts are paying off. In recent years, Georgia increased inspections by 20 percent and saw fatalities decrease by almost 40 percent.

After a thorough check, the tractor gets the seal of approval and the driver gets the green light.

Before hitting the road, James Keys reminds us about the dead zones.

James Keys, truck driver: “We do have blind spots. If you don't see my mirror, I don't see you, and that's a fact.”

And remember, these big rigs can't stop on a dime, so leave more space between you and the tractor-trailer. Also, if you're on the interstate and need to get off, be patient.

Capt. Bugg: “Plan your exits, plan your lane changes, and make your exits and lane changes behind the commercial vehicle instead of trying to cut it off.”

Mary: “As the economy improves, look for more trucks on the road, and more inspections at weigh stations. As for one grieving father, it's full speed ahead in his effort to slow those big rigs down.

We did some checking, and it turns out 9 states already have different speed limits on rural freeways for truck drivers…but not Georgia or South Carolina.

To see which states do limit the trucks' speeds, click here.

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