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Truants hit by road ban

America's unusually young legal driving age is being harnessed to deter students from skipping school in New Mexico, under a novel scheme banning chronic truants from the state's roads.

Youngsters can legally drive at 15 in New Mexico (the limit is 16 in many other states), but those chalking up five unexplained absences from school over 20 days, or 10 during the year, will have their licences suspended for three months. Any more no-shows and they will not be allowed behind the wheel for a year.

"This is a no-nonsense law designed to tackle a major problem head-on. Our kids need to stay in school - period," said New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who announced the new law at an Albuquerque high school last week.

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