How Will More Teenage Truck Drivers Impact Road Safety?
The federal government has loosened restrictions on teenage truck drivers to address the driver shortage and supply chain issues arising from the pandemic. A pilot program proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will allow drivers ages 18 and older to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce.
What Are the Requirements for Teenage Truck Drivers to Cross State Lines?
Most U.S. states will issue commercial driver’s licenses to men and women ages 18 and older, but they are not allowed to drive across state lines until they reach the age of 21. Under the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, 18-year-old drivers will be allowed to drive between states with certain conditions and restrictions:
- Apprentice drivers must complete probationary hours before operating in interstate commerce.
- They are not allowed to haul hazardous materials, carry passengers, or drive special configuration vehicles, for example, with more than one trailer.
- No more than 3,000 apprentices will be allowed to participate in the program at any one time.
- Applicants must have no previous impaired driving violations and no citations for causing a crash.
- Younger drivers can cross state lines during probationary periods of 120 or 280 hours, provided an experienced driver is in the passenger seat.
- Trucks driven by younger drivers in the program must have speed automatically limited to 65 mph, forward-facing video cameras, and electronic braking crash mitigation systems.
- After completing the probationary period, apprentice drivers are allowed to drive on their own. However, companies must monitor their performance until they reach the age of 21.
What Are the Safety Concerns With the Loosened Restrictions?
Opposition to the pilot program has come from safety organizations such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. Critics of the program have noted that younger drivers tend to be more distracted and have higher crash rates. There has been reference to a statement by the CDC that teenagers lack the ability to correctly analyze dangerous situations. The Owner-Operated Independent Drivers Association has stated that licensing under-21 drivers for interstate commerce will lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks, as reported by Overdrive.
What Types of Accidents and Injuries Can Occur With Less Experienced Drivers Behind the Wheel?
Per miles driven, teen driver crash rates are nearly four times those of drivers ages 20 and older, as stated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Immaturity can lead to risky habits. Teens may lack the experience to recognize and respond to hazards. Teenage drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes caused by:
- Losing control of the vehicle
- Distracted driving, including electronic devices and distraction by passengers
- Driver error
- Alcohol or drug-impaired driving
Crashes caused by teen drivers can cause a wide variety of injuries, ranging from minor to fatal. When a large commercial truck collides with a passenger vehicle, injuries sustained by passenger vehicle occupants are more likely to be catastrophic or fatal. Common truck accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Internal organ damage
- Fractured bones
- Spinal cord injury
- Wrongful death
Why Choose The Lenahan Law Firm?
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact The Lenahan Law Firm at (214) 295-1008. Our Dallas truck accident lawyers can investigate your accident to determine what caused the crash and who is responsible. We can collect and preserve evidence to support your claim and effectively pursue the compensation you deserve, whether it is through skillful negotiations or in trial. Our firm has extensive experience successfully representing injured people in truck accident cases.