When a young 18-year-old thinks of what to do for a summer job, being the driver of an 18-wheeler probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. That may change sooner rather than later thanks to the Senate’s attempt to pass a bill that would make it legal for 18, 19 and 20-year-old Americans to become truck drivers. With a projected truck driver shortage of 150,000 drivers in 2014 alone, which may grow to 200,000 in less than three years, there is a definite cause for concern within the industry. Spokesman for the Alabama Trucking Association stated,
“Absolutely there is a shortage. As the baby boomers retire, the younger generation is not as enticed to being in a truck so much and away from the comforts of home.”
Why Young Adult Drivers are a Safety Concern for 18 Wheeler Operation
Opponents of the proposed bill share concerns over the potential safety risks inherent to providing teenage drivers with the keys to an 18-wheeler. The University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, for example, demonstrates that the 18 to 20 demographic has posed a significant safety risk to the state of Alabama as a whole.
Their findings reveal that this demographic caused over 75,000 accidents that resulted in 17,785 total injuries and 307 fatalities in less than six years . Even more eye-opening is the property damage caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 20. 10.7% of all property damage in the state of Alabama is due to this demographic’s driving.
In addition, cause for concern is derived from the top four most common events which caused these accidents in Alabama:
- following another vehicle too closely,
- driving too fast for the weather conditions,
- and misjudging the proper stopping distance.
In total, these four contributing causes by young adults 18, 19, and 20 years of age, were responsible for more than 28,000 accidents, over 20% of which involved an injury. Talk to an Alabama auto accident attorney, and you will quickly learn that attorneys are well aware of these trends since young adults are often in need of legal assistance after auto accidents. The previous statistics indicate as much, which is why many Alabama residents have expressed concern over the new bill.
Alabama Accident Data Could Be a Cause for Concern over Highway Safety
These concerns should not be dismissed lightly, given the troubling nature of the empirical data gathered. Thanks to the University of Alabama’s procured data, we see an alarming six year trend of accidents between 2009 and 2015. The fact that such a small age group among all Alabama licensed drivers contributes 11% to all traffic accidents per year there a few points that are worthy of discussion.
Maturity & Responsibility
First, it suggests that many young drivers are coming to grips with driving and have not yet mastered the skill. Driving too fast for the weather conditions and misjudging the proper stopping distance are clear indications of a driver who has not yet mastered basic driving skills, and these are two of the top four accident causes for the 18 to 20 demographic.
Skill & Proper Training
Second, the accident data begs the question whether it is proper to change the legal status of truck driving. 18 wheelers are, by their very nature, demanding and unwieldy motor vehicles that require skill and expertise to operate. If young adult drivers have shown to not master basic skills, then it is reasonable to question a bill that would hand the keys of a demanding 18-wheeler to one of these drivers. While it is unreasonable to suggest that no young driver could effectively drive a truck, the data gives clear reason for a comprehensive assessment of the bill’s soundness.
Younger Drivers May Solve the Shortage But Create Bigger Problems
Finally, it is important to note that there is a trucker shortage across the country, and proponents of the bill believe young drivers are the remedy to this shortage. While this sounds great in theory, the issue is not quite as simple as plugging in for a shortage of fast food employees. 18-wheelers are not just an employment issue, they are a safety issue if they are driven by young adults who are not yet ready for such driving, and put the lives of everyone else on the road at risk as well.
However, these points of concern are not meant to suggest that allowing an 18-year-old to drive an 18-wheeler is wrong. These issues are highlighted only to suggest that Alabama automotive accidents are a serious safety concern, and the data that is readily available ought to be thoroughly assessed and discussed in order to make a proper safety determination on the proposed Senate bill.
If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident involving an 18 wheeler, contact Noel B. Leonard, an experienced Foley injury lawyer who will provide you with the quality legal expertise and assistance you need. Call 251-732-2701 or schedule a consultation today.