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Teenagers escape Darwin's theory

A couple of days ago, I wrote about two teenage girls who were killed when the Land Rover Discovery they were driving went out of control and impaled itself on a utility pole. The point I was trying to make was that teenagers do incredibly stupid things some times, and some times they end up getting killed doing it. I'm not saying whether that's right or wrong, merely that it is so.

This morning, I see two stories ouf of Salem, NH that reinforce that it just isn't a Massachusetts phenomenon.

In the first, a 16-year-old boy is in critical condition with head injuries. He thought it would be fun to ride clinging to the trunk of a 17-year-old girl's car as she drove through his development. As any number of you are already guessing, he fell off and hit his head -- hard.

In the second, though, we have a fairly clear case of parental involvement. Steven Miles just turned 16, and to celebrate his brand-new driver's license, his parents got him a car. And it was a nice "starter" car, too -- a 1998 Corvette. And I doubt anyone could have foreseen him getting a buddy of his a ride and blasting around town -- and ending up wrapped around a telephone pole. Both kids are in the hospital, with the driver in guarded condition -- rescuers had to pry the dashboard off his legs.

Kids tend to think they're indestructible. And every now and then, fate/God/the world/Nature decides that it's time for a graphic reminder that it's not so. It's the job of parents, and adults in general, to try to help the kids learn otherwise before they learn it the expensive way.

And any parent who gives a 16-year-old a Corvette is, in this non-parent's book, certifiably insane and unfit as a parent.

(Author's note: links to news stories will probably expire by noonish. That's the hazard of using an afternoon paper as a source.)


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Comments (18)

Well...the case were the ... (Below threshold)
mark m:

Well...the case were the kid got a Corvette.....what would you expect???. That's what kids do, even the responsible ones. Hell, they would try that in a Yugo. I think i'd lay 95% of the blame on the dimwhit parents for buying the car in the first place.

Though, I will say, that kid probably won't do that again.

For the one where the kid r... (Below threshold)

For the one where the kid rode on the car, one of my best friends...who graduated form Stanford with a Masters in comuter science...was trying to convince our friends sister not to go to some stupic club one night. So he sat on her hood. She proceeded to roll out of the driveway to get him to get off. he refused, so she creeped down the street. She was paying so much attention to him that she t-boned a parked van, bouncing my poor friend off of it in the process. Point: even incredibly smart and responsible teenagers...like my friend...are still teenagers and are, in fact, insane.

Crap: one neglected detail ... (Below threshold)

Crap: one neglected detail for the above story: We were all in high school, and in fact teenagers, when this happened.

When I was a little kid, my... (Below threshold)

When I was a little kid, my mom used to joke about my first car being some clunky, slow-moving piece of construction equipment. Something bulky enough that I'd be safe in just about any accident.

I ended up with a Honda Accord. Great car.

I'm certainly thankful to G... (Below threshold)

I'm certainly thankful to God He allowed me to escape my own brain-dead years as a teenager -- I slid my very first car into a barbed wire fence the second day I owned it. Fortunately for me, the little Fiat 850 wasn't exactly a "muscle car." But I learned my lesson early -- but just for context, my folks didn't "give" me the car (I was dumb enough to crash MY OWN vehicle, thank you!) Oh yes, a kid's first automobile SHOULD be a clunker ... the other day I even suggested to my middle daughter that she consider a backhoe. My oldest daughter thought it was a sound recommendation.

Being a grandfather allows ... (Below threshold)
John:

Being a grandfather allows me a lot of liberties to not only say my peace, but have a little bit of experience to back it up.

Parents need to let their kids -- from toddler on up -- fall flat on their backsides to show them that 1) it happens, and 2) sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. This helps grow a healthy respect for "hurt" which is an amazing voice that, sometimes, rises above the din of peer pressure. (I'm not so stupid as to think it happens all the time; just often enough to be useful.)

I see parents today -- my kid included -- sheltering and protecting and "saving" their kids from any possible harm. That's from letting a toddler fall on the playground all the way up to bailing out a teenager who did something typically stupid and expensive. This does kids no justice at all.

Years and years ago, a highschool classmate of my kid's got a brand new Mustang SHO for his birthday. First rattle out of the box, he and two of his friends piled in at the end of the school day, the boy fired up that Mustang, floored it, and seconds later had it wrapped around a large -- and largely immovable -- oak tree. They buried them all.

Who did I blame ultimately? The parents. I still do.

I used to say it's a wonder God allowed me to live this long, but actually I have God and my parents to thank. All three of them allowed me to fall just often enough to keep me alive.

John

Like most people, I only ev... (Below threshold)
Oh, FTLOG:

Like most people, I only ever saw a person go from alive to casket, never the body in the car, or on the street, or in the morgue.

Part of my job now is to photograph those "transitional stages". If only I could show these pictures to my nieces and nephews. Because they don't believe it can happen...just like we didn't believe it could happen.

ok, I have been a first tim... (Below threshold)
blondiesfather:

ok, I have been a first time father now of an 8.75 year old for the last 5 years, and my grandson of 15 months. ( don't even try to do the math).

in both cases, I know these kids are going to hurt themselves, and my 8.75 especially has this drive for independance and debate, there is no simple NO to here.. she constantly tries to come up with alternatives, ( wonder where she learned that from) and I know that if I give her reasons.. she will try to counter each argument. ( years from now I see her as an advocate, or politician) if she survives her childhood.

She wants to make the mistakes and learn from it.. and I have to NOT try to do everything for her. However.. I do know that she will suddenly say "MOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY" can you get me a soda" or MOMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYY can you get me my jacket" to which I hear.. well I am just going to get mommy to do it.

essentially kids are smart enough to think.. well if I can't get it one way.. I can get it another.

an important lesson to learn

now how to teach them not to want certain things..

simple.. have them take care of a 15 month old.. watch them suddenly become protective and safety conscious.

( naturally I am standing nearby as she does this just to make sure that he is still being protected and of course.. he is walking now.. so if you blink.. he is gone.. BEWARE smart kids who can walk and don't cry out a lot.. noisy kids you can know where they are.. quiet one.. WATCH OUT)

I have NEVER understood the... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I have NEVER understood the parents who give their kid a first car like a Mustang or 'Vette, it just doesn't make sense.

And it's always given to them; little or nothing done to earn it.

So folks who buy their kid ... (Below threshold)
John:

So folks who buy their kid a Honda Accord are rational, caring adults not ultimately responsible if their kid wraps it around a tree.

Compared to parents who buy their kid a Mustang who are cerifiably insane and are ultimately responsible if their kid wraps it around a tree.

I think I get it. It's a matter of horsepower, yes?

What about a motorcyle? I would assert that a motorcycle is significantly more inherently dangerous than a Honda Accord. Is that parent certifiably insane, too?

Sixteen year-old wraps a Dodge Neon around a tree and is killed. Sixteen year-old wraps a Tahoe around a tree and walks away. Which parent are you gonna call unfit?

And is it a matter of horsepower, or cost? I had friends in auto shop in high-school that owned inexpensive muscle cars they tricked out to run pretty damn fast, as well as friends whose parents bought them small, yet expensive cars, like a Porsche 914. Which parent is certifiably insane?

Just askin.

What if the 16 year-old kid... (Below threshold)
John:

What if the 16 year-old kid works his ass off and earns enought money to buy an old Corvette, fixes it up, then has an accident and is killed?

Non-parent jay, for one, will still blame the parents and call them unfit and certifiably insane.

Or is it just the gift rather than working for it? Either way, you have a dead kid with grieving parents and some nit-wit blaming them for the kid's death.

John,I think if a ... (Below threshold)

John,

I think if a kid works hard to buy the car himself (or herself, but yeah), then that kid is going to be a bit more careful with the car. There's something about handing over the bills that you personally owned to buy something that makes you want to take care of it. When your parents buy you something, you lose that sense of value.

Personally, my dad bought me my first car ('91 Dodge Shadow). I don't drive like a maniac because I want to live, but if my dad had bought me a Mustang I might be more tempted to zoom zoom. Now, if I bought a 'Stang or a 'Vette, I would definitely be more more inclined to take care of that baby than I would a '91 Dodge Shadow.

Why is this just about cars... (Below threshold)
Mark:

Why is this just about cars? What about motorcycles? Skis? Parachutes? What about risky behavior in general, or extreme sports?

There is a commmenter on this thread who was doing freestyle aerials in Juior High and High School, flying through the air upside down at the local ski areas. Blame the parent for letting him buy his skis? He and I and others would jump off blind cliffs on skis, hoping our feet would sense the landing before our heads resembled Sonny Bono. Blame the parents for letting us buy lift tickets? The same guy was sky diving as a teenager (as was I). Blame the parents again? Or praise them for letting us experience life, earn our bumps and bruises, and learn our own life lessons?

Kids are amazingly indestructable (or at least resilient), and discovering the limits is an important part of life that can't usually be taught by parents or teachers.

I am probably lucky to be alive, and many people would call my parents certifiably insane, but it's not their fault. I sorta outsmarted them and trapped them into a decision that proved to be one of the best learning experiences in my life. Since I'm still here to type, their critics are finally silenced. It was not always that way.

A cousin took me to a motocross race when I was eight years old. I HAD to have a motorcycle, but my parent's said, "no, not unless you can buy it for yourself." Of course, they knew that would be several years off so they wouldn't have to deal with the issue.

Wrong. About two weeks later, our local paper boy (a friend's older brother) was looking for a replacement. Although I was only 8, I was built like a typical 12-year-old. I learned the route, interviewed with the paper, and they never asked my age since they probably assumed I was 12 (this was in 1968 and there was no paperwork). Suddenly, I was earning about $85 a month. After two months, I made a down payment and took the bike home (the dealer let me pay in installments for about 4 more months, interest free!). My parents begrudgingly stuck to their word, and I created a demon in me.

This was in Alaska where I could ride for miles through all kinds of terrain, and my parents really never knew where I was (they tried). I rode constantly. The first Sunday after I got the bike, I took it to the local motocross races; I placed second. My 9th birthday was still four months away, but I had already chosen a career path of sorts.

I raced every weekend thereafter and did well in the Alaska State Championship series and Western Canada series. By 14 I turned professional. Between the ages of 8 and 17, I had purchased 13 different, expensive, brand new, motorcycles for myself, while sponsors in Alaska and Canada also loaned me bikes and equipment. I worked many concurrent jobs before, during and after school to support my habbit. In this sense, it taught me a lot about responsibility, self-sufficiency, hard work and other great lessons. It also kept me off the streets (pretty much) so I avoided drug troubles, etc.

On the other hand, I was riding bikes every day with freinds; both on the track and off. These bikes accellerated from 0 to 75 or 85 instantaneously. I can't count the times I've had mid-air collisions with other riders 15 feet in the air, or times I raced to a quarry only to find someone had scooped a 25-foot pit from behind a blind corner. I rode on semi-frozen rivers, on the local airport runway, on sand bars that become isolated when the tide comes in. I jumped across driveways and roads just hoping a car would not pull up as I accellerated up the ramp from the ditch. We often jumped off blind cliffs believing we had cats' reflexes and would always land on our wheels. Yeah, it's insane to let a kid do this at 9, 10, 11...15, 16, 17 years old--good thing my parents never really knew what I was up to. Good thing Darwin never found out.

I probably should have broken my neck several times, but I never broke a single bone. I learned quite a bit through all those years of risky behavior, and it made me a better person today. I think the best thing that ever happened to me was for my parents to trust that I would be ok if left to learn my own lessons.

I truly, honestly, believe that by letting me ride on the edge of danger throughout my "indestructible years," my parents unwittingly gave me the tools and good sense to later take school seriously and build my career as a successful lawyer. Without those opportunities, I might still be pumping gas somethere.

According to the way this t... (Below threshold)
Lennie:

According to the way this topic is going, my parents were insane and I’ve been dead for 25 years. When I was 16, my parents gave me a van, but sitting in the garage was a ’65 Vette. It was the weekend fun run car. My Mom never learned to drive a stick, so my Dad and I drove it. Yeah, I raced it some. So did he. Oh, did he ever. But, much like guns, he taught me the proper use and handling of cars. He also taught me to respect property, be it mine or others. Back then I had friends total all kinds of cars from Pintos to Broncos. I never put so much as put a scratch on that car and I respected the power under the hood. Got a ’99 Vette now and when Me Boyo’s old enough, he’ll drive it. Some parents shouldn’t give a car to their kid at all. No matter what kind of car it is. But calling parents insane because their kid drives a Vette, well, that’s just crazy talk.

I agree with SilverBubble a... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I agree with SilverBubble about respecting property you earn rather than that which is given to you. But I think that respect tend to manifest itself in terms of regular maintenance, parking sensibly, and avoiding fender-benders. That stuff comes from the brain.

On the other hand, I think the big ticket items like wrapping yourself around a power pole is regulated by another part of the body; the crotch. Showing off and taking risks probably applies equally to those who earn their own car, and those spoiled brats who have them given to them (do you detect a bias here?). Bottom line is, I suspect the risk of death is equal.

And, the risk is not limited to the historically poor handling, underpowered (except for the 454 days that were also the worst-handling) and twitchy Corvettes. The problem was worse in the days of over-powered, abysmally handling muscle cars. It ain't so good in the Dodge Neon days, either. If you can acheive decelleration from 40 to 0 near instantaneously, you're in big trouble. That is possible in every vehicle on the road. Rain, snow, ice, bending to find your CD/DVD/Beer/Joint/Condom/beanie baby duckie/whatever will get the job done, whether it's your own car or your parents'.

Who do you blame? The driver. Only.

I had to come up with the c... (Below threshold)

I had to come up with the cash to buy my own first car. The only thing it had in common with a 'Vette was the automaker.

The only accident I was in while driving that car, was at a stoplight -- caused by a strung-out girl in some souped-up thing her parents gave her (and paid the insurance on), who managed to plow into the car behind me hard enough to make it hit mine. Fortunately no one was injured. I'd heard the screeching of her brakes and the slam of her hitting the other car, and traded my brake pedal for the clutch in time to minimize damage from the secondary collision.

If she learned her lesson from that one, she's lucky.

John, you're grasping at st... (Below threshold)

John, you're grasping at straws to make an issue here. The point is that it's not even remotely reasonable to coddle and protect your children, then turn them loose with a vehicle that's wicked fast for their first "on their own" experience. It's not so much a question of horsepower or speed as it is the entire context of the parenting that's taking place. The other element is that for whatever reason, the parents that protect and "bail out" their kids are the ones most likely to buy their kids the fast, new sports cars that the "common people's kids" can only dream of.

Mark, you make the point wonderfully in your first post, then contradict it in your second. Parents are partially to blame. I suspect your motorcycling experience may have been significantly different if mom & dad had been completely financing your endeavours, or if they had been the type to immediately give in to your requests. As it happened, you started out with respect for your machine because you had personally worked for it, then as you learned what it could do, the respect deepened.

Now, there was a comment about motorcycles being "inherently more dangerous" than cars. To that I would suggest that my motorcycle (and it's not a sportbike) will accelerate, stop, and swerve more quickly than all but the most exotic sportscars. My chances of avoiding an accident are greater than yours, although my chances of being injured are slightly greater. So would you rather not be in an accident or be in one and have more protection? It's really not quite as clear cut as "inherently more dangerous" indicates.

Hmm. Some kids can handle i... (Below threshold)

Hmm. Some kids can handle it, others can't.

Vet them before you 'Vette them




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