You probably read about the 12-year-old boy pulled over in Broken Hill, after driving more than 1300km from Port Macquarie in his stepmother’s car.
He was on his way to Perth – I think the only time I ever ran away from home, I made it about as far as the bottom of the street, so I will never again let anyone tell me young people these days aren’t go-getters.
But just the week before, in Ohio, USA, Fox ran a story (so you know it’s not fake news!) about an eight-year-old boy who drove to a McDonalds a couple of kilometres from his house – with his four-year-old sister! – and bought a couple of cheeseburgers and some nuggets because his parents had fallen asleep on the couch. He even used the drive-thru! The McDonalds workers thought they were being pranked and served the kids, who paid for the food with coins from their piggy bank. He even put his sister in the back seat. Hell, he’s possibly more responsible than the parents.
How did an eight-year-old learn to drive? YouTube videos, the boy says.
Really? YouTube? You can learn to drive on YouTube? In fact, you can: there’s a nine-minute video on how to drive an automatic car, and it’s had more than half a million views. And this isn’t a refresher course for, I dunno, people who hit their head and forgot how to drive. It’s for complete beginners – “If it’s raining, turn on the windscreen wipers… just like that. If it’s not raining, you won’t have to turn them on. It’s literally simple” – and it doesn’t muck around either: the presenter dives straight into turning the car on, putting it in drive and getting moving in under two minutes. (“Put your foot on the gas pedal and hold it at a decent position, don’t floor it, just hold it at a decent position and the car will be moving … you just want to turn the steering wheel slightly to guide the car on the road.”)
If you’d asked me last week, I would have said this was terrible. But police say the eight-year-old in Ohio obeyed all the road rules, and made it through a number of intersections and across a level-crossing without any problems. And through the drive-thru! I even find it hard to negotiate some drive-thrus! Who designs those things, Vespa riders? So now, I say: learning to drive on YouTube is the future.
(Can you learn everything on YouTube? I was briefly delighted to find a video called “How to perform open heart surgery”, but it’s a tutorial for a video game called Surgery Simulator. Which actually freaks me out more than the idea of kids driving.)
I’ve heard of proposals to lower the voting age – would politicians be more forward-thinking if they had to woo young’uns instead of pensioners? – but how about lowering the driving age? Kids could drive themselves to school, removing irritating school buses from the roads. You could take your family out to dinner and you’d always have two or three designated drivers on the way home. No more threatening to “turn this car around” – instead, it’d be “If you kids don’t knock it off back there, I’ll make you drive.”
Do I hear the nanny brigade crying, It’s too dangerous? How dangerous can it be (unless they’re driving the new Mustang… too soon?) For the entire month of April, in 100 per cent of cases of kids driving cars, they had no accidents. Statistically, that’s safer than letting adults drive. You ever seen a bicycle? Now those things are death traps.