New Bill Would Drop Tractor Trailer Driving Age to 18 In United States
In Texas a 16 to 17 year-old teen who holds a provisional license is not allowed to drive with more than one non-family member who is under 21 years old in the vehicle and is not allowed to drive between 12:00 am and 5:00 am unless in an emergency or for a work or school related function. Only upon reaching the age of 18 can a teen obtain a full, unrestricted license in Texas. In 17 states, drivers are not eligible for a full license until age 18, and in the District of Columbia, the minimum age is 21.
These restrictions are placed on minor drivers because they lack the maturity and judgment necessary to drive safely and not put themselves and others in harm’s way. As a personal injury lawyer I handle a disproprotionate number of collision cases caused by teens.
And yet a new bill before Congress would lower the age at which a person can drive a big-rig from 21 to 18. The law was introduced this week as part of a larger transportation bill cosponsored by Republican Senators John Thune, Jerry Moran and Deb Fischer.
How can we allow this? The statistics reveal that drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 were involved in fatal crashes at a 66 percent higher rate than those 21 years and older in 2013. One safety advocate called the passage of this bill “a catastrophe waiting to happen.”
Trucking Industry Lobbies for Reduced Big-Rig Driving Age
Unsurprisingly, the American Trucking Association is behind the proposed change. It claims there is a shortage of drivers, but obviously it knows that brand new drivers will be paid far less money than experienced ones. However, public safety concerns demand that we do not allow teens behind the wheels of tractor-trailers. A 20 year old Texas driver would have only two years of experience just driving a car. Drivers who come from Florida, California, D.C. and the other states that don’t grant full driver’s licenses until after age 18 would have no experience driving a car at night. Most teens haven’t yet had enough experience to recognize risks or to respond effectively to emergency situations. Should a teen go from driving a Honda Civic to an 18-wheeler basically over night?
Fatal Traffic Rate Three Times as High for Teens
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the rate of deadly crashes per mile driven is three times higher for drivers ages 16 to 19 then for drivers who are 20 and older. In fact, the crash rate of teen drivers is of such concern that some states have considered raising the legal driving age.
Young male drivers are most at risk of crashing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that death rate for male drivers and their passengers was close to twice that of females. Although there are numerous women truck drivers, the truck driving profession is dominated by men.
It would be tragic to allow teenage truck drivers. They already cause too many fatal and serious collisions.The trucking industry can find more effective ways to attract qualified drivers, like incentive programs, reasonable hours, better pay and good healthcare and other benefits.