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Weare teens get taste of tractor trailer viewpoint

WEARE — With a new batch of teen drivers getting ready to hit the roads this summer, safety is a top priority, and a driving school in Weare is doing its part to prepare them to share the road with some of the biggest motorists — tractor trailers.

Street Wise Driving Academy recently presented the Teens and Trucks program, in conjunction with New Hampshire State Police and Conway Trucking, which has offices nationwide, to help kids learn how to navigate the highways and byways with trucks.

Students got some hands-on experience in the parking lot of John Stark Regional High School in a big rig parked at the school.

“The purpose of this is to get them used to where they are in relation to the tractor-trailer,” said Trooper Jay O’Leary of New Hampshire State Police.

O’Leary said when it comes to accidents between tractor-trailers and other vehicles, “most of the accidents are caused by the passenger cars, rather than the trucks.”

As students climbed into the cab of the truck, they were able to see exactly what large trucks see – and can’t see – when they’re driving.

“Their blind spot is a lot greater,” O’Leary said, as students checked for his strategically-parked cruiser from the cab of the truck.

An hour of classroom time before the hands-on portion gave teens the rundown on things like following distance, breaking distance, and the difference the size and weight of the truck make going down the road.

“The worst thing is when I have someone riding on the right side of me,” said Hank Jewett of Conway Trucking.

He reminded students that they don’t know what a truck could be hauling.

“It could be hazardous material,” he said. “I can’t stress enough that you don’t know what we’re carrying — and these things don’t stop on a dime.”

Jewett, who volunteers his time to do the program, said he enjoys working with the students, but is also committed to keeping all motorists safe.

“I do it because I like to, because I want to,” he said. “It’s all about safety.”

Many students, sitting in the cab of Conway’s truck several feet off the ground, said they didn’t realize how different it was from operating a passenger vehicle.

“I learned that you can’t really see what’s behind you,” said student Gregg Sawyer.

Street Wise Driving Academy owner Earl Russell said he hopes students will remember the live lesson when they become licensed drivers.

“Being able to sit in the truck allows them to see the limitations of that driver,” he said, and giving students a different perspective may make them better drivers in the long run.

“My goal is to try to make Weare a safer community,” he said.

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