Posted by: project151 | October 16, 2008

Nelson County Times ;”Va. 151: Road to tragedy” Part 1

Screengrab from The Nelson County Times, Virginia 10.15.08 edition

Screengrab from The Nelson County Times, Virginia 10.15.08 edition

The Nelson County Times, weekly newspaper in Virginia began a good series this Wednesday about the number of deaths and increased traffic along Virginia Route 151 in Nelson County, Virginia. This story written by, Erin McGrath, shows history of the road, and cites some good statistics.

P-151 was interviewed for this story a month or so ago and will our comments will most likely appear in future articles.
P-151

By Erin McGrath
Published: October 15, 2008

Last year was the deadliest year in a decade for motorists driving the 18-mile stretch of Va. 151 in Nelson County from Route 833 near Brent’s Gap to Route 250 near Avon.

Click here for an online map of Va. 151 and Nelson County

Major factors in Va. 151 wrecks
(1998-2008*)

Driver/Pedestrian handicap – 22
Driver/Pedestrian under influence – 29
Driver Speeding – 36
Driver/Pedestrian inattention – 341
Vehicle Defective – 1
Weather Visibility – 35
Road Slick – 8
Misc – 93

Total: 565 accidents

* Through July 30
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation

Vehicle types in Va. 151 wrecks
(1998-2008*)

Passenger car – 471
Pickup – 232
Van – 58
Straight truck – 25
Tractor-trailer – 28
Bicycle – 2
Motorcycle – 14
Emergency vehicle – 3
Truck-SUV – 77
Truck/tractor only – 1
Not stated – 16
Other – 1
Total – 928

*Through July 30
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation

This piece of highway is home to numerous Nelson County residents and businesses and each year, an average of almost 60 vehicle accidents occur along the road, injuring more than 30 people and killing at least one person.

Until four deaths occurred on Va. 151 last year, no one galvanized a response to stop the problem.

Before then, the most dangerous part was a six-mile stretch between the intersection of Va. 151 and Route 6 West and the intersection of Va. 151 and Route 6 East. An accident occurred there an average of every 318 feet.

The four deaths were the catalyst for safety advocates, lower speed limits and increased traffic enforcement.

The result: As of July 30, only 13 accidents have occurred on Va. 151 this year.

But the volume of motorists, and hence the danger, didn’t increase overnight.

More than 565 accidents occurred along this 18-mile stretch of Va. 151 in the past decade, involving almost 930 vehicles. These accidents occurred mainly on Fridays or Saturdays and between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Tommy Harvey lives and owns a business along this dangerous part of Va. 151 and he said he saw the dynamic of the road staying the same while amount of traffic has increased since the 1970’s. Harvey is also the North District representative to Nelson County’s board of supervisors.

“I drive it everyday,” Harvey said. “There have been no major changes.”

Harvey said in the past 20 years, he could only recall 10 or fewer new entrances being built on Va. 151 from the intersection of Route 6 to Virginia 250.

His business, the Afton Service Center, has been on the corner of Va. 151 and Virginia 840 since 1974.

“We’ve gotten to where we pump more in a day now then we pumped in a week then,” Harvey said.

In 2007, the average amount of daily traffic along Va. 151 from the intersection of Route 6 at Martin’s Store to the intersection of Route 6 at River Road was 6,700 vehicles. In 2000, it was 7,800 and in 1995 it was 5,100. Twenty years before that, in 1975, it was 2,750.

Most of the accidents Harvey has seen occur when a motorist stops on Va. 151 to make a turn, he said.

“We’ve had people turn right in front of somebody and into the station,” Harvey said.

Harvey is also the chief of the Rockfish Valley Volunteer Fire Department and has worked on many of the rescue calls on Va. 151.

“I’ve been out there with my hands in it,” Harvey said. “It makes no difference where you are or what the road is. If you’re not driving (paying attention to) the car, an accident can happen.”

Harvey recalled the accident at the intersection of Va. 151 and Va. 635 that killed a mother and her two daughters in August 2007 as “one of the worst.” Killed were Laura Cavedo and her daughters, Elschen Strickler, 12, and Iliana Strickler, 9. Another woman Gertrude Johnson, 54, died in an accident in October 2007 at Va. 151 and Va. 840.

But he also said there were others that were nearly as bad.

“We had one on the Fourth of July that involved four adults and one child,” Harvey said. “We were literally picking up body parts from the road. Anytime you have a child involved, it’s bad.”

Sgt. Gregory Miller of the Virginia State Police was one of the officers who responded to the multiple accident on Aug. 30, 2007. He called it “one of the most horrific events of my career.”

Miller said the five state troopers assigned to Nelson County have been doing everything they could with the manpower they have to keep the road safe.

“More often than not, we’re shorthanded, though,” Miller said. “There’s all kinds of added responsibilities with this job.”

Virginia’s manpower allocation for state troopers to Nelson County is seven, Miller said, but they have been operating with five for the past 25 years.

In 2005, 74 accidents occurred on the road. That was the year with the most accidents in the past decade, with one person killed and 44 others injured.

Last year was the deadliest and with the most injuries. In the 72 accidents that occurred in 2007, 28 of those wrecks were classified as injury accidents and 46 people were injured.

Forty-four accidents occurred in 1999, causing more than $1.8 million in damage, making it the costliest year in the past decade.

Nelson County Sheriff David Brooks said the road is “a busy route” with most of the traffic coming to and from Wintergreen.

“Of course last year was a horrific year in itself,” Brooks said. “The difference between last year and this year is a world of difference.”

Next week: The August 2007 accident.

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Posted by: project151 | October 15, 2008

State Police cite semis for noncompliance in Lowell District

Munster (Indiana) Times; Friday, October 10, 2008
HEADLINE: State Police cite semis for noncompliance in Lowell District

LOWELL — The Lowell District of the Indiana State Police dedicated more than 460 hours in the region to enforcing federal regulations for semitrailers in September, according to a news release from state police.

Driver and equipment violations were targeted.

State police conducted 244 inspections in September, which resulted in placing 56 drivers and 42 vehicles out of service, the state police reported. Officers found a total of 93 out-of-service violations and 260 non-out-of-service violations during those inspections.

Officers also issued 387 traffic citations and 172 warnings to drivers of commercial vehicles in that time period.

Those officers were responsible for enforcing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, police said.

State police ask that drivers report unsafe operation of commercial motor vehicles by calling the nearest Indiana State Police post or by dialing 911.

Posted by: project151 | September 22, 2008

New Website & Organization Underway Along 151 Rockfish Valley

A snapshot of the newly formed Virginia Scenic 151 website.

A snapshot of the newly formed Virginia Scenic 151 website.

Congratulations to the folks forming a new organization and website along Route 151 in Nelson County, Virginia along Route 151 running through the Rockfish Valley. The new organization says:

We look to be a voice of the collective citizen. We are YOU. We are seeking to be an accurate concentric voice of the people living and working in the area.

Please send us an email today with the most important issues to you for the future of a more quiet and scenic 151 in the Afton area. What are your concerns?

* Noise from illegal thru-trucks?
* Future development direction?
* Jobs and revenue for Schools and roads?
* The future of rural transportation?
* Bike and walking trails?
* 151view shed and business landscaping?
* Signage and lighting?

Project 151 wholeheartedly supports this new effort along Route 151 to eliminate the continued noise and illegal traffic of trucks using 151 as a cut through between I-64 and U.S. 29.

Kudos to Virginia Scenic 151 and we encourage anyone interested in this project either from a safety or beautification standpoint to join this organization!

You can find out more by going to their website by clicking here.

Posted by: project151 | August 31, 2008

Remembering Laura, Elschen and Iliana

State Memorial Marker At 151 & 635

State Memorial Marker At 151 & 635

It was exactly one year ago this weekend, when Laura Cavedo and her two daughters, Elschen and Iliana were waiting to turn left from Route 151 onto Route 635 (Greenfield Road) in Nelson County, Virginia. The three had just returned from taking a few things to their new home in Crozet when a delivery truck rear ended their car shoving it into oncoming northbound traffic on 151. Both little girls were instantly killed at the scene, Laura was flown out and died just a short time later. Just like that three lives, gone. About a week later a memorial service was held at Shannon Farm to remember the three.

The man driving the truck, Shawn Andrew Lloyd, later plead guilty to reckless driving and served 90 days in jail for the triple fatality.

The August 30, 2007 accident was one several that killed 5 people in just 33 days on Route 151 and nearby connecting Route 6 between I-64 and Route 29. (Archives, here And here. The fatal accidents spurred the development of this website and the creation of Project 151.org.

From that a separate group organized by VDOT was formed to look into ways of improving safety on Routes 151 & 6. After the 2-3 meetings in 2007, a new slower 45 MPH speed zone was established on 151 from roughly Route 6E north to Bland Wade Road. Additionally, increased enforcement signs and stepped up law enforcement were part of an operation to reduce the fatal accidents. A recent proposal by the local BOS looks to expand the 45 MPH zone all the way to Nellysford. The earlier changes have shown positive results, fatal accidents so far eliminated, and serious accidents reduced. A temporary increase in law enforcement within Nelson County, VA helped keep drivers in check. Today, Albermarle County Police continue strict enforcement on their end of Route 151 where it intersects with Route 250. Occasional stepped up enforcement stints still continue on 151 within Nelson by the Virginia State Police and The Nelson County Sheriff’s Department.

VDOT promised a rework of the fatal 151 / 635 intersection to add a left turning lane southbound to make it safer for cars waiting to turn from 151 to Greenfield Road. The following e-mail, along with the reply, was recently sent to VDOT asking for a status and on the intersection:

From: Project 151 & 6 [mailto:project151org@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2008 3:55 PM
To: Wright, Kevin B.
Subject: Update on 635 & 151

Hi Kevin,

Hope all is well.

I need to verify that 635 and 151 intersection is still on the list for upgrade. I know many of the others were pushed back, but my understanding is this one is still there.

If so can you give me a time line on it.

Thanks so much.

Best,
Tommy

Tommy Stafford
http://www.Project151.org

From: “Wright, Kevin B.”
Date: August 7, 2008 7:52:20 AM EDT
To: “Project 151 & 6”
Subject: RE: Update on 635 & 151

Tommy,

Hope everything’s going well, seems like things are pretty quiet at least for now.

The 635 and 151 intersection has been approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and the project has received funding. Since it has been funded, I’m trying to find out some more detailed information from our traffic safety folks who manage both this project and the centerline rumble strips. So far, I’m not having any luck, but I’ll have something soon.

I’ll be back in touch soon,
Kevin
Are you Virginia’s next traffic fatality?
Take Virginia’s Highway Safety Challenge
http://www.safeVAhighways.org

As Kevin mentioned in the reply,, the intersection has been approved and work should eventually begin. Another positive move on Route 151. It is our understanding that other intersections along Route 151 have been pushed back several years for any modifications or improvements due to a lack of funding, but 635 & 151 was not part of that delay.

Much has been done in the past 12 months, really it’s monumental in terms of government action. Generally speaking, what would have taken years took place in less than a year. It is perfect, no, improved, you bet.

But, much remains to make 151 a much safer corridor between I-64 and 29. It continues to have hundreds and hundreds of large semi trucks a day using the route as a cut through. Though only a fraction of the fatal accidents can be documented to involved the semi trucks, their dangerous driving along Route 151 and 6 goes virtually unchecked by VSP and Nelson Sheriff’s officials on the Nelson stretch of the road. After midnight many truckers routinely run in excess of 60 MPH right through the posted 45 MPH zones knowing no one is there to enforce it. Again, for whatever reason, Albemarle County Police continually enforce their end of 151 almost weekly. Though Nelson officials and VDOT say there is nothing they can do to reduce truck traffic on 151, the fact remains today that the local BOS has NEVER made a request to VDOT to even explore the reduction of trucks. As P-151 has stated time and time again, we are not opposed to the trucking industry, but do believe that 151 was never designed to handle to type of long haul truck traffic it sees today, which impedes the normal ebb and flow of passenger cars traffic along the scenic highway. It’s the exact reason four lane divided highways and interstates were designed. As reported here on this web page numerous time lately, neighboring North Carolina officials have taken steps to reduce the number of large rigs on small outdated two lane highways like 151. Again for clarity’s sake, P-151 only wants large “cut through” rigs removed from 151 & 6, not those making local deliveries, or those involved in local commerce. The argument will most assuredly be made, as it always is, that large semi trucks have not been responsible for the fatal accidents here on 151. Granted. However, it continues to be a consistent problem on the road here in Nelson County, Virginia that no governmental body or regulatory agency wants to touch. The only BOS member to speak in favor of a move to reduce cut through semi traffic has been Connie Brennan. All others either oppose exploring the idea or remain silent.

No, Laura, Elschen and Iliana were not killed by a large semi truck, just a smaller delivery truck with different gross vehicle weight (GVW) standards than a semi truck. A matter of pounds and length, but who’s counting a few feet or pounds.

P-151

The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina); Sunday, July 13, 2008
HEADLINE: Not so fast; A national safety advocate makes a compelling case against the easing of tractor-trailer rules in North Carolina

North Carolina’s debate over whether to allow longer tractor-trailers on some highways has hit the national scope, thanks to a safety expert. Gerald A.
Donaldson is the senior research director for the nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of several types of groups, from insurance companies to safety organizations. At a Washington hearing, he addressed issues related to moves not just in this state, but nationwide, to relax rules on truck lengths and weights.

Donaldson called the support from some North Carolina legislators for allowing longer trucks on more highways as showing a “disregard” for the “adverse safety and infrastructure impacts” of such a move, which is supported by the trucking lobby.

Word from the head of the N.C. Trucking Association isn’t that comforting.
Yes, Charlie Diehl said, the rules would be different. “It’s going to change what is legal,” the association president said, “but there won’t be a significant increase of 53-foot trailers on highways where you don’t have them now.” And why not? “Trucking industry operators recognize that the trucks are not safe to use on some roads, and they don’t use them on those roads now,” he said. That sounds a little like: Trust us.

Trucks and heavy vehicles cause much of the wear and tear on highways, costing huge sums of public money in repairs. And North Carolina, according to Donaldson, ranked fifth in the country in 2005 for the number of people, 204, who died in crashes involving large trucks.

The industry has made a push for these changes despite opposition on safety grounds from the state Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation. How, then, can North Carolina’s lawmakers push on?

Alas, it appears it’s the tried and true tradition of listening to lobbyists for special interest groups over the voices of authoritative common sense.

The same might be said of other legislation that would relax rules for towing wide boats. Legislators also are scheduled to vote on final approval soon for allowing wide boats to be hauled on Sundays and holidays (now banned) and at night, provided the boats are 10 feet wide or less. Governor Easley has appropriately threatened a veto, if lawmakers continue to ignore his objections.

It’s certain the trucking and retail industry interests will continue to drive for action (as will those pushing the boat rule changes) before this session of the legislature adjourns. That’s the way things are done when legislation is designed to benefit a particular type of business or interest group without much regard to consequences or consumer interests.

The last thing a special interest group wants is prolonged debate and give-and-take discussion. That means cooler heads might prevail. It means someone, maybe many someones, given the chance to consider the broad implications of legislation, might pull a switcheroo and crawl out of the pocket of that special interest.

This legislation needs to be pulled off the road. Let’s have it stop in the weigh station of public opinion.

Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal; Friday, July 11, 2008
HEADLINE: Bill that allows bigger trucks advances, but with safeguards; 53-foot rigs for most part limited to interstates now
Byline: James Romoser

RALEIGH – A bill to allow larger trucks on North Carolina roads moved forward in the state legislature yesterday, but only after safeguards were added to satisfy concerns from Gov. Mike Easley and highway-safety advocates.

The bill would expand the number of roads that are open to 53-foot tractor-trailer rigs, a standard length in the trucking industry. It would also ease size restrictions for other vehicles, including agricultural equipment. After the bill sped through the N.C. Senate, where it passed unanimously, a committee in the N.C. House of Representatives put the brakes on it yesterday.

The committee amended the bill to make it easier for the N.C. Department of Transportation to designate certain roads as off-limits to 53-foot trucks. The committee also deleted the provision allowing larger boats to be towed on state roads.

“I can’t tell you how absolutely thrilled I am,” said Jennifer Tierney, a Kernersville woman who led opposition to the initial bill. “This is a good thing for everyone involved.”

Under current law, 53-foot trucks are allowed only on interstate highways and a few other major roads. The length limit on other roads is 48 feet.

The bill under consideration would open most of the state’s roads to 53-foot trucks, a change that the trucking industry and business advocates say is necessary to promote economic development, especially in rural areas that can’t be accessed via interstate highways.

Once the additional roads are open to longer trucks, transportation officials can still restrict truck size on particular roads that they deem unsafe. But earlier version of the bill made that process arduous. Under the new, amended version, transportation officials would be able to instantly restrict 53-foot trucks on any road they see fit, as long as they notify a legislative committee within six months.

“This makes it where DOT can immediately, at any time, put roads on this list that are not allowed to have the longer trucks,” said state Rep. Trudi Walend, R-Transylvania. “In a way, it makes it very easy for them to keep the trucks off these dangerous roads.”

The Department of Transportation already has a long list of roads that it considers unsafe for 53-foot trucks. Most of the roads in question are winding, narrow, mountain roads in the western part of the state.

Walend’s amendment passed yesterday after a flurry of unexpected negotiations that involved several legislators, an aide to Easley, supporters of the bill, and the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers, which favored the additional safeguards.

In response to Easley’s concerns, the bill was also amended to take out a provision that would have allowed drivers to haul boats up to 10 feet long during the day and night without a permit. Current law allows boats up to 8.5 feet long to be towed without a permit, and towing is not allowed at night, on Sundays or on holidays.

Several other bills are pending in the legislature that seek to loosen restrictions for hauling boats on the road.

The amendment on truck sizes appears to have a good chance of making it into law. The bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, supports Walend’s amendment. A spokeswoman for the N.C. Chamber, which advocates on behalf of businesses, said the chamber continues to support the bill.

End.


Associated Press (Washington, DC); Thursday, July 10, 2008
HEADLINE: Lawmakers try again to block Mexican truck program
Byline: Andrew Taylor


WASHINGTON (AP)
— Opponents of a pilot program giving Mexican trucks greater access to U.S. highways won another round Thursday in their battle with the Bush administration.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 20-9 to block the program, which opponents say erodes highway safety and threatens U.S. jobs. The language, however, was attached to a transportation spending bill that’s unlikely to be enacted before the president leaves office in January.

It’s not the first time lawmakers have tried to thwart the program. Last December, Congress cut off funding to implement the program, which permits up to 500 trucks from 100 Mexican motor carriers full access to U.S. roads.

But a Department of Transportation lawyer found a loophole that has allowed the program — established last September — to go ahead. Thursday’s provision makes doubly clear lawmakers’ intent to block the program.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., predicted the administration would lose a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging the Transportation Department’s interpretation that last year’s law — which blocked taxpayer funds from being used to “establish” the program — doesn’t apply to the program since it was established before the law passed.

The amendment adopted Thursday says the government could not in “in any way permit” the program to go ahead.

“The Department of Transportation has already defied the intent of Congress once, and they are not going to get away with it again,” Dorgan said. “With this amendment, this program will finally come to an end.”

Opponents have been fighting the measure — part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement — since it was first proposed, saying the program will erode highway safety and eliminate U.S. jobs. And they say that there are insufficient safeguards to make sure Mexican trucks are as safe as U.S. carriers.

Supporters of the plan say letting more Mexican trucks on U.S. highways will ultimately save American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. And they say U.S. trucking companies will benefit since reciprocal changes in Mexico’s rules permit U.S. trucks new access to that country.

Before, Mexican trucks have had to stop within a buffer border zone and transfer their loads to U.S. trucks.

Still, there’s widespread opposition to the program within Congress. The House voted without a roll call in last July to block the program and the Senate followed with a 3-to-1 vote in September to block it despite administration assurances that safeguards are in place to “ensure a safe and secure program.”

45 MPH Signs File
45 MPH Signs installed last year on parts of Route 151 near Route 6 East

From minutes published by RuralNelson.org, project 151.org has learned the Nelson County Board of Supervisors has voted to reduce the speed limit on portions of Route 151 in Nelson County, Virginia.

Wording from RuralNelson.org minutes of that meeting on 6.26.08:

SPEED LIMIT/RT. 151 – Supervisors voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution requesting
that VDOT lower the speed limit on Rt. 151 from 55mph to 45mph from the Rt.
6 intersection through the southern intersection of Rt. 613 (Rodes Farm
entrance).

This is a sensible move and project151.org commends the BOS for making this move. It is common sense to have the speed limit the same all along that stretch of highway from Rodes Farm through the northern 45 MPH zone. Project 151.org encourages VDOT to follow the lead of the BOS and make the change.

We’d also like to commend both the VA State Police and Nelson County Sheriff’s Department for the continued increased enforcement on Route 151 and 6. The presence is having a very positive effect!

P-151

Accident scene is clearing at 6:04 PM EDT

35 MM shot
The accident scene looking south on 151 toward the weigh side turnout.

Fire and Rescue crews are working a three car accident on Route 151 at Rockfish School Lane right at the turnaround. One lane is open allowing traffic to move as crews can direct them around. There are injuries and people have been transported to the hospital.
35 mm loading
Crews load injured into the ambulance.

More as we know.

635 & 151 sx 2007

635 & 151 ax
Photography Courtesy of Nelson County Life Magazine Web Edition
The accident scene where Laura Cavedo and her two daughters, Elschen and Iliana were killed on August 30, 2007.

Original coverage and follow up:
-HERE
-HERE
-HERE


Story from The Nelson County Times, Virginia.

By Erin McGrath
Published: May 15, 2008

A Ruckersville man who fell asleep at the wheel has pleaded guilty to reckless driving and has been sentenced to serve three months in jail for a car accident that killed a mother and her two daughters along Virginia 151 last August.

Shawn Andrew Lloyd, 27, entered the pleas on May 7 in Nelson County Circuit Court. He received a 12-month sentence, with nine months suspended, was fined $1,000, and must pay court costs.

“There is nothing I really can say but I am sorry for what happened,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd said he fell asleep while driving a box truck on his way to a job on Aug. 30 along Virginia 151.

Laura Cavedo and her daughters, Elschen and Iliana Strickler, were waiting to make a left-hand turn off of Virginia 151 near Afton when Lloyd’s vehicle struck theirs, sending them into oncoming traffic.

Cavedo was flown to UVA Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Her daughters were pronounced dead at the scene.

Lloyd’s attorney, Scott Goodman, said the investigation into the accident by law enforcement was very thourough.

He said Lloyd’s speed when the accident occurred was under the speed limit, no drugs or alcohol were involved and a later examination of Lloyd’s vehicle found “numerous problems” with the brakes.

“He awakened in time, but not in control of the vehicle,” Goodman said. “It’s just a horrible thing.”

Commonwealth attorney Phil Payne said this was a difficult case for him to categorize properly because three people were killed. He said he had thought about the case for months.

“There’s no way to adequately punish,” Payne said. “I don’t have a magic wand and I don’t know what would be appropriate.”

Lloyd will begin his jail time on May 16.

From: www.trucksafety.org

Majority opposes trucking and shipping industry push to change laws to allow bigger rigs – Safety advocates warn of more deaths, damage to roads and bridges.

WASHINGTON, DC May 14, 2008 – A new national survey shows that Americans overwhelming oppose efforts by the trucking and shipping industries to relax safety standards and allow longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s highways, a coalition of safety groups announced today.

The poll results counter a lobbying effort by the trucking and shipping industries to increase the size and weight of trucks in a six state “demonstration project,” which would include Georgia, Maine, Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. The industries are lobbying Congress this week to increase the load limits for trucks in these states from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.

Bigger and heavier trucks will mean more deaths and more damage to the nation’s roads and bridges, said officials of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.). The groups held a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, which included relatives of people killed in large truck crashes, or who were injured themselves.

Also participating today were consumer and safety champions U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) and U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.).

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that shows the larger trucks get, the more difficult they are to control, the longer they take to stop, and the more dangerous they are to the motoring public,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Today, we are telling the trucking and shipping industries that we don’t need a demolition derby on our highways.”

The independent survey of a representative sample of U.S. motorists conducted by Lake Research Partners found that 66 percent oppose changing laws to allow larger trucks carrying heavier loads. More than 80 percent believe that trucks pulling two or three trailers are not as safe as single-trailer trucks. The survey also found that the strong opposition to bigger trucks transcends political party, gender, age, and region.

“The American people have to share the roads with these super-sized trucks and are frighteningly aware of the dangers they pose,” said Jacqueline S. Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Increasing the size and weight of big trucks is an invitation for more deaths and more road and bridge damage.”

Each year, about 5,000 people are killed and more than 100,000 are injured in crashes involving large trucks. Although large trucks make up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, they account for 9 percent of all fatal crashes. Heavy trucks also cause heavy damage to roads and bridges and increase the likelihood for catastrophic failure, such as the collapse of the Interstate-35 bridge in Minneapolis last summer, which killed 13 and injured another 145.

Among the family members of victims who attended the news conference was Judy Walters from Fort Worth, Texas, whose son Rob Walters was killed in a truck crash. She said she is concerned that Texas, which leads the nation in annual truck deaths, is being considered for the pilot project.

“You might think, what’s another 17,000 pounds on a truck?” Walters asked. “And the answer is it could be a difference of life or death.”

The trucking and shipping industries are pushing for larger and heavier trucks as Congress prepares next year to reauthorize the multi-billion dollar surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU). Congress must consider, not only the lives lost in crashes involving large trucks but the burden they put on the nation’s infrastructure.

“Last year’s tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis demonstrated how fragile our already-deficient bridges and roads are, and we should not be putting even heavier trucks on them. But that is exactly what some trucking company interests are proposing – even bigger and heavier trucks on our roads. If there was ever a recipe for disaster, this is it,” Senator Lautenberg said. “Our bill would protect our infrastructure and improve safety on our roads by helping keep dangerously large and heavy tractor-trailer trucks off of them.”

One 80,000 pound tractor-trailer truck does as much damage to roads and bridges as 9,600 cars. Additionally, the cost of large truck crashes exceeds $41 billion per year.

“It defies common sense to let big trucks become super-giant trucks. Missouri drivers are already stressed by the presence of so many big trucks,” McCaskill said. “There are safety considerations along with the reality of increased fuel costs that require us to say no to even bigger commercial trucks on our roads.”

McGovern added: “Larger trucks are not safer trucks. And they aren’t ‘greener’ trucks, either. I have introduced legislation, HR 3929, to extend the common sense limits on truck size and weight and I look forward to working with my colleagues and with all those who care about safety on our roadways to advance that legislation through Congress.”

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