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Truckers, once knights of the highway, are too often black knights
In an Interstate duel of car vs. tractor-trailer, the car loses.

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Date published: 8/17/2003


THE LIVES of Emily Cella, 19, and Patricia Hines, 38, and Stephanie Hines, 10, and all the others who have fallen victim to tractor-trailers shouldn't be lost in vain.

Maybe their names should be memorialized on highway billboards, so tractor-trailer drivers could see them and be reminded of the carnage they can cause.

Just the day before the car Mary Washington College student Emily Cella was driving back to Fredericksburg was obliterated by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95, my own trip along that same stretch of I-95 had me outraged at the driver of a big rig.

Driving along in one of those little Dodge Neons you've seen with "The Free Lance-Star" painted on the side, I'm in the center lane and keeping an eye on the tractor-trailer that's filling up my rearview mirror. Every driver knows what an unnerving feeling that is. I'm already doing 70 in a 65 mph zone, passing slower traffic in the right-hand lane, but this trucker clearly wants me to move faster.

Before I can move to the right to get out of his way, he beats me to it and hits the gas, passing me on the right and leaving me in the dust. He's got to be doing 80 or more as he pulls away.

I've just related an episode that might repeat itself hundreds of times a day on this one stretch of I-95 alone.

That visibility is part of the industry's perception problem: When people see so many speeding truckers, and find themselves tailgated so often by those highway monsters, it's hard not to fault the industry as a whole.

So here's the obligatory "Not all truckers" part: Not all truckers are idiots, jerks, and maniacs. I'd venture to say that a relative few are. Most of these guys are out there trying to make a living like any of us, keeping their speed in check, not knowingly driving unsafe rigs, obeying the rules about consecutive hours on the road without rest, and generally sharing the road safely.

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