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Teen Truckers Are 6x More Likely to Be in Fatal Wrecks

Teen Truck Driver Risks

As the Age of Truckers Decreases, Crash Risks Spike, Data Shows

Teen truck drivers are operating more and more 18-wheelers these days, especially with a new federal program piloting interstate hauls for teen truckers. While that program may offset trucker shortages plaguing Texas and the U.S., it may also come at a serious cost.

That’s because recent data shows that teen truck drivers are about six times more likely than truckers 21 and over to be in big rig accidents resulting in injury or death.

Teen Trucker AccidentsHere’s why, with a deeper look at:

Understanding how teen truckers fit into the picture of risky roads in Texas can help you remain aware of who you’re sharing the roads with — and how to protect yourself whenever you’re driving in Houston, Fort Bend County, Austin, Lakeway, Bee Cave, and elsewhere in the Lone Star State.

Why Age Is a Risk for Truck Accidents

The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and many other trucking safety advocates all agree that age IS a major risk and contributing factor when it comes to tractor-trailer crashes. In fact, experts at the IIHS have explicitly stated that, “Age is a strong risk factor for truck crash involvement.”

Risks of Teen TruckersThat’s likely due to studies and research highlighting the facts that commercial motorists under the age of 20:

  • Are not subject to enough federal training requirements: Federal regulators have yet to establish any mandates regarding behind-the-wheel training for teen truckers. That means teen drivers with no more than 24 months of experience operating non-commercial vehicles can (and do) end up behind the wheels of 80,000-pound big rigs, without necessarily getting any in-depth training on how to safely drive tractor-trailers.

  • Have less behind-the-wheel experience: Not only do teen truckers have less experience with driving in general, but they also have far less exposure to 18-wheelers and operating them in traffic, the dark, poor weather, or on riskier roads. That can mean even well-intentioned, safe-minded teen truckers could be out of their depth in terms of skills and their ability to safely maneuver trucks in less-than-perfect conditions.

  • Have less decision-making experience: Sometimes, truckers have to make split-second decisions to try to avoid the possibility of an imminent wreck. That could happen if there’s a deer in the road, another wreck in front of an 18-wheeler, or slick conditions with skidding risks. In those and other situations, truckers may have seconds to make a choice, maneuver tractor-trailers, and try to avert a collision. Teen truckers won’t have as much experience making these calls; so, there are far greater chances they either don’t make the right call — or they don’t make the right call soon enough to avoid a tractor-trailer accident.

  • Are riskier generally as younger drivers: When comparing overall traffic death rates for teen drivers versus older motorists, teens are about three times more likely to be involved in deadly wrecks. Along with less experience motoring and making safe driving choices, teens can also be riskier motorists because they’re more likely to speed, use cellphones behind the wheel, and be vulnerable to other distractions.

For these and other reasons, teen trucker crash risks are exponentially higher than the accident risks for older truck drivers. Specifically, researchers have found that:

  • Truckers who are 19 are 4 times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

  • Truckers between 19 and 20 are 6 times more likely to be in deadly wrecks.

Why Experts Say Teens & Tractor Trailers “Are a Lethal Combo”

Summing up the findings and experts’ stand on teen truckers, the TSC has stated that:

  • “Lowering the age limit to allow younger drivers to operate 80,0000 pounds [commercial vehicles]…  is absurd.”

  • “TSC strongly opposes the pilot program to allow teen truckers to operate in interstate commerce.”

  • “Let’s prioritize keeping our loved ones safe and refrain from pushing our children into one of the deadliest professions, risking the lives of all roadway users in the process.”

With January serving as Teen Driving Awareness Month, there may be no better time than now for authorities to recognize the TSC’s position and rethink the policies, training, and requirements associated with teen truckers.

How to Safely Share the Roads with Teen Truckers

Driving SafetyNo matter how regulators handle the safety issues associated with teen truckers in Texas and the U.S., here are some steps you can take to safely navigate the roads alongside teens driving 18-wheelers:

  1. Never tailgate: Leave plenty of room, ideally a little more than you’d typically leave when safely following another vehicle. This can give you plenty of time to brake, especially in poor or slicker road conditions.

  2. Beware of the (many) blind spots: 18-wheelers have more and larger blind spots than passenger vehicles, with these “no zones” being in the front, the rear, and on both sides of tractor-trailers. Do your best to avoid driving or staying in these areas where you are pretty much “invisible” to teen truckers. If you are in a blind spot, try to speed up, slow down, or change lanes to get out of the no zone.

  3. Stay fully focused on the roads: Driving conditions can change instantly. You won’t be able to respond as readily as you should if you’re on your phone, you’re fiddling with GPS, or you’re otherwise distracted from the important task at hand. So, keep your eyes on the road, checking your mirrors and blind spots when necessary and keeping track of where teen truckers are whenever they’re in your vicinity.

  4. Be where they expect you to be: Follow traffic laws so that you’re in the spots that teen truckers anticipate you to be in and so that you do what those truckers expect you to do. Simply complying with the rules of the road can go a long way to minimize the chances of big rig wrecks, regardless of whether teens or older truckers are behind the wheel.

Finally, don’t forget that safety starts with you and that even with your full commitment to safety on Texas’s roads, you could still be hit by an 18-wheeler. Whether or not a teen trucker was behind the wheel — and even if you’re a teen or a seasoned trucker hit by another vehicle — you have rights, and you could be entitled to compensation for your crash-related injuries, suffering, and losses.