News that a thirteen-year-old practicing driving in the Bronx ran down and killed his father has put all those “aww, how cute, a kid driving” stories in perspective.
The rash of recent stories of kids allowed behind the wheel – either for a joke or by drunk parents – have earned a lot of clucking and head-shaking but overall little cause for real outrage.
But a Bronx dad was teaching his thirteen-year-old son to drive (three years too young for a New York State driver’s license) when the child put their Porsche SUV into reverse and accidentally hit the gas. ABC News reports the father, who was standing beside the open driver’s side door, was dragged by the car, then slammed into a tree. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries.
Authorities aren’t expected to charge the child over the brutal accident, but he now has to live with having killed his father. And the question comes down to why. Why was a thirteen-year-old behind the wheel? Was it an awful accident or an accident waiting to happen?
The person to crucify in this story is already gone, and I’d wager the rest of the family is already beating themselves up plenty.
But where a seven-year-old driving is shocking, is a thirteen-year-old practicing all that bad? Or that uncommon? In my rural hometown, children learned to drive the farm equipment as young as five or six. By ten, they were driving trucks around the family farm. I wasn’t a farm girl, but my Christmas present at fifteen (a year before I could legally try for a driver’s license) was lessons from my father. We did them on a dead end road with little chance of running into another driver. I was first introduced to a manual transmission in an empty field beside my grandfather’s mower shop.
It wouldn’t apply in the Bronx, obviously, but in neighborhoods where there is no public transportation, teaching children to drive early is a means to ensuring the day they’re eligible for their driver’s test, they’ll be ready. Parents, especially those in households where both work or in a single-parent situation, desperately need their child to have some sort of self-sufficiency in order to allow them to get from here to there.
And yes, accidents happen. They’ll happen to a sixteen-year-old too – hence the horrific stories of teen drivers who lose their lives in crashes. Would you allow your child to get behind the wheel at thirteen?