Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Nine Year Old Crashes Car in Joyride

Apparently all those trips to amusement parks do pay off! In Des Moines, Iowa, a nine-year-old girl hopped in the family car for a joyride, along with her seven-year-old friend riding shotgun. A 911 caller alerted police, who found the car zig-zagging down the road, going curb to curb. After police failed to be able to pull the car over using their usual lights and sirens technique, the car eventually came to a halt following a minor crash in which no one was injured.

A Parent's Responsibility

In a fortunate turn of events for the driver, Sgt. Paul Parizek said that she wouldn't be turned over to juvenile authorities. Instead, he believed, "the punishment to fit the crime is probably going to be in the home."

Details of the crash weren't published. However, the driver's parents would be financially responsible for any resulting damages. State law dictates the age at which this liability begins, and of course it doesn't end until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in some states, but up to 21 in others. In between, it's all you, parents!

... Or Irresponsibility ...

This isn't the first time FindLaw has reported on such a young driver. Back in October of 2016, a mother allowed her seven-year-old son to drive home from the local school bus stop. In what can only be described as a "What Were You Thinking Moment, Part 2," the mother took a video of the son driving, and posted it to Facebook. Somehow the video posted to YouTube, and the local police discovered the footage. The mother was subsequently arrested.

Teaching Your Kids to Drive

So what are the rules and best practices when it comes to having an unlicensed driver behind the wheel?

  • The driver should have a learner's permit
  • Contact your insurance company to confirm or add coverage of the learning driver
  • Make sure the adult teaching the new driver has brushed up on traffic laws
  • Check with your state's department of motor vehicles regarding all necessary requirements

Best of luck, parents! Too bad those kids don't come home from labor and delivery with an owner's manual. Not that we read those anyway ...

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