In harmony with the highway

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BRIGHTON, Ont. – Bettina Schwarze may carry the badge of an OPP constable, but truckers along the Hwy. 401 corridor in Eastern Ontario know her by her CB handle of Goldielocks.

With a Class A licence in her pocket and the CB in her cruiser, Schwarze has earned the respect of many truckers who travel the route. But now she’s looking to take the idea of community policing – a concept that traditionally involves such things as foot patrols, Neighborhood Watch, and Crime Stoppers programs – out to the province’s highways.

“It’s an extension of the communities we live in,” she says. “They (drivers) work out there, eat out there and sleep out there.”

And she wants to make it a safer place to live. As such, she’s taken it upon herself to develop a brochure to educate motorists about how they should behave around trucks.

About 9,000 “Highway Harmony” brochures have already been distributed, and another 20,000 are on the way for distribution in the OPP’s Central Region between Trenton and Durham Region, and north to Collingwood and Bracebridge. From there they’ll find their ways into service centres and members of the Canadian Automobile Association.

It was largely her own initiative, as she spent six months toiling away at gathering information for the educational tool. And when Brighton held its annual Applefest in September, she distributed them during her day off. She also arranged for a truck to be on site so the general public could get a first-hand look at the view from the driver’s seat.

“That’s how strong I believe in it,” she said. “It was my way of giving back to them.”

(Schwarze says truckers often help her by blocking high-speed cars, or assisting at accident scenes.)

She’s looking to educate other motorists about the actions of heavy trucks, to tell them about such things as wide turns, how they should do their own pre-trip inspections, and the problem of hogging the centre lane on a multi-lane highway. Given the fact that she occasionally drives for an owner/operator near Belleville, traveling as far as Georgia, she has a particular insight into the actions of four-wheelers as seen through a West Coast mirror.

“It’s so simple,” she says. “I tell them to get the heck out of the middle lane.”

Most motorists simply don’t know that it’s meant to be a passing lane for trucks, she said.

For that matter, they aren’t even aware about how to behave around trucks.

“Not only do you have to be aware about how your vehicle operates,” she said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings.”

But Shwarze is using her own voice to deliver the message. n

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