(NUI) - Each year, needless tragedy occurs when vehicles run into illegally parked trucks on roadway shoulders.
In 1998, for example, a Greyhound bus struck a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Seven people were killed and 16 others injured in the accident.
According to state transportation departments and a federal study, some drivers park on shoulders and exit ramps even when there is plentiful, safe parking nearby.
An accident involving a parked truck is five times more likely to result in a fatality than an accident involving other vehicles. Alarmed about the risks posed by illegally parked trucks, NATSO (a group representing travel plazas and truck stops) has launched a nationwide public service campaign urging drivers to seek safe, legal parking.
"The goal of this campaign is simple. Travel plaza and truck stop operators are concerned about their customers' safety and want to educate them on the hazards of parking on the shoulders," said NATSO President W. Dewey Clower in kicking off the association's "Drive Safe - Park Smart" campaign.
Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., NATSO represents over 1,100 travel plaza and truck stop operators across the country.
NATSO is placing ads in national trucker and trucking company magazines to remind professional truckers they put themselves and other motorists at risk when they park alongside the highway.
In addition, the campaign encourages drivers to plan their routes carefully to ensure they can find safe parking at the end of their legal driving day. The ads remind truckers that parking on highway shoulders is dangerous and illegal in all 50 states.
"There was a time you could park your truck just about anywhere. Times have changed," one ad reads. "Today, safe parking requires responsible routing - a plan mapped out before you hit the road."
Petro Stopping Centers Vice President Jim Cardwell, chairman of NATSO, said, "There has been a tremendous focus on ensuring safer truck driving, and we've seen dividends from that effort - truck accidents are down. Now we want to raise the awareness about safety once it's time for a driver to stop for the night."
Cardwell noted that America's truck stops and travel plazas provide over 250,000 parking spaces, which are typically located at interstate interchanges or along other high-traffic routes.
"Parking is free at more than 90 percent of these locations," he said. "The remaining locations waive any parking fees with the purchase of fuel."
"Make a change for the better," a NATSO ad urges: "Drive safe - park smart,and you'll rest easy, safe and secure."