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Teen big-rig truckers crossing state lines: good or bad idea?

It "is a terrible idea, and it will result in more crashes, more deaths and more injuries," says Jackie Gillan, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a national alliance of groups promoting positive roadway outcomes.

Not true, counters a leading lobbyist for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), who says that it is actually a sensible proposition and hardly akin to "just opening the barn doors to these young horses to run."

"It" is a legislative bill currently in the U.S. Senate that, if passed, would allow truck drivers under the age of 21 to drive the largest of commercial trucks -- 18-wheel tractor trailers -- across state lines. Drivers only 21 and older are presently authorized under federal law to do so.

Reportedly, and as noted by NPR in an article discussing the Senate bill, there is a pressing need for more commercial drivers, and the legislation presently under consideration addresses it.

The ATA supports the idea, with the above-cited lobbyist noting that teen truckers already drive big rigs in every state. He finds fault in logic positing that their crossing state lines will increase safety risks, given that many of them already drive hundreds of miles hauling intrastate loads. He additionally points out that the Senate bill allows states to participate in a pilot program that would cap a trip inside their borders from an adjacent state to 100 miles.

Critics of the bill aren't persuaded by any arguments that support it. They note that, regardless of what type of vehicle they're driving, teen motorists are a demographic that poses outsized safety risks.

Drivers aged 18-20 "have four to six times higher rates of fatal crashes," says Gillan.

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