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Parent's worst nightmare: Pre-schoolers drive SUV to visit grandma

2016-09-09 06:31

TEACH THEM TO BE RESPONSIBLE ON THE ROAD: We list important road-safety tips for both children and parents. Image: iStock

Cape Town - A parent's worst nightmare unfolded in the US; two children, aged five and three-years-old, took their family SUV for a road trip.

The US Federal Way Police Department said on its Facebook page  that the children didn’t inform anyone of their road-trip and ultimately drove the SUV to visit their grandmother.

The children reportedly crashed into another vehicle at an intersection.

The department reported that nobody was seriously injured in the crash.

Who's liable?

Wheels24 contacted Arrive Alive’s Johan Jonck for expert advice that can parents should take note of:

Jonck said: "Children between the ages of three and five simply can't be held accountable for actions like these. I think in this instance it is more a case where the Department of Social Development would be keeping a concerned eye over.

"It becomes a problem when unlicensed teenagers drive vehicles. But I doubt that parents will be held accountable in cases where they're 'unaware' of their children taking the vehicle without permission.

"What is interesting is that the insurance companies do not have to pay - unless the parent lays a complaint against their child, in which case the insurance company has to pay (this does not happen often)."


Do you have any stories to share about your toddler/teen driving your vehicle? Email us or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook reacts to toddlers driving an SUV

Expert's advice

Corne van de Venter, a lawyer at Road Cover, questions how it can be physically possible for a five-year-old to operate a vehicle and agrees with Jonck that toddlers can't be held accountable. 

Van de Venter says that first and foremost, parents should keep their vehicle's keys in a place where it is out of children's reach. She notes that concerning teenagers, parents should "explain to them (teenagers) with photographs what the dire consequences [of their actions] can be and that they can go to jail and/or cause serious injury to themselves or others."

Van de Venter concludes that in certain circumstances the parents can definitely be held responsible and accountable, depending on how, where and when the incident took place.
Do you have any stories or incidents of a child driving a vehicle? Email us or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

Arrive Alive stresses the following:

- Facts about underage driving

  • Teen drivers aged 16-19 years are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.
  • Teens are more likely to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, ride with an intoxicated driver, or be the intoxicated driver.
  • Inexperience is the reason why these drivers are more likely to underestimate hazardous situations
  • The presence of teen passengers increases the risk of accidents by underage drivers. And the more passengers, the higher the risk.
  • Accidents by underage drivers occur mostly on Friday and Saturday nights between 9pm and 6am.

- Risks of underage driving

  • The high number of underage drivers can be attributed to peer pressure and a feeling of youthful invincibility.
  • Teenagers have a sense that they can get away with transgressions - “I can get away with anything”.
  • Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use.
  • About 30% of crashes killing young drivers involve alcohol and are often combined with contributing factors such as speeding.

- Advice for parents

  • Know what your children are doing and where they are, as well as their traveling and destination arrangements.
  • Talk to them about the consequences of their actions and the trouble they can get into.
  • Stress responsibility and the dangers to road safety.
  • Discuss with your children the need to avoid peer pressure and to avoid climbing in vehicles with underage and/or intoxicated drivers.
  • Put keys where underage children cannot get to them.

Read more on these safety tips and more on the Arrive Alive website.


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