The pandemic has been and is a lot of tragic, terrible things.
It’s also something very ordinary:
And if you’re not a person accustomed to entertaining yourself, it can be very boring indeed.
Without labeling all teens as such, I suspect that many aren’t adept at entertaining themselves.
That’s why articles abound on the internet, like this one:
Though how teens can get bored when they have, on their phones at their fingertips, endless access to Snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram, WhatsApp, Kik, Telegram and more to search, and share, and star in their own lives…
Apparently some teens still do get bored.
Bored is the only reason I can think of for a 13-year-old to take her mother’s SUV – without permission – pick up a friend, and head out for a joyride sometime after 11pm on February 12.
And if she wasn’t bored, then what was she thinking?
According to this article from American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:
Thinking – that is, thinking logically – isn’t something teens generally excel at:
Many parents do not understand why their teenagers occasionally behave in an impulsive, irrational, or dangerous way. At times, it seems like teens don’t think things through or fully consider the consequences of their actions. Adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions. There is a biological explanation for this difference. Studies have shown that brains continue to mature and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and well into early adulthood.
Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala that is responsible for immediate reactions including fear and aggressive behavior. This region develops early. However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later. This part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.
The article goes on to say,
Pictures of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex.
When it comes to making good decisions, teens are at a distinct disadvantage.
As was the 13-year-old driver.
She isn’t named in the news stories, so I’ll call her X.
Shortly before 11:30pm, X’s joyride was interrupted when she was pulled over in Escondido, about 30 miles north of San Diego, for a traffic violation.
If you’ve ever been pulled over by the police – and I have – it’s an unnerving situation.
Those flashing red-and-blue lights in your rearview mirror…the knowledge that you must have screwed up, even if you don’t yet know how…or maybe you know exactly how…but either way, as that police officer approaches, you know you’re in Big Trouble.
The news stories don’t detail what traffic violation the was, and it probably doesn’t matter.
What matters is that X didn’t sit meekly in her driver’s seat, awaiting her reckoning, like most of us do.
Instead, as the Escondido police officer approached the SUV, X allegedly sped off.
That lasted for six blocks, then she lost control of the vehicle, and careened off the roadway:
Two homeless men were laying in a patch of shrubbery next to a concrete-block wall.
The SUV slammed into both men…
Both teens then allegedly got out of the damaged vehicle and made a failed attempt to escape on foot.
One man died at the scene, and one died later in the hospital.
The men were Mateo Salvador, 33, and 51-year-old Sofio Sotelo Torres.
The girls weren’t injured, but the two men were dead.
After being caught and questioned by police, X and her friend were released to the custody of their families pending completion of investigations.
Weeks passed, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through X’s mind. Was she upset? Remorseful? Ashamed? Or perhaps just regretting that her little joyride may have gotten her into some serious trouble?
On March 24, X was jailed on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and evading arrest. She was booked into Juvenile Hall in San Diego:
Her passenger wasn’t facing charges or mentioned in the police department’s statement.
If the case moves forward, according to CBS 8 TV,
“It means she will have proceedings in juvenile court which is closed to the general public, before a judge only. Meaning she won’t have a jury trial and her identity will remain sealed,” said San Diego defense attorney Gene Iredale, who is not representing the teen.
If convicted, the maximum sentence for the teen would be juvenile detention until her 21st birthday.
“Her parents could also face consequences, but not in criminal court. The parents, assuming the girl stole the car without their knowledge, are not criminally liable for anything. There may be civil liability on behalf of the parents.”
On March 26, X pleaded not guilty:
Our law says a 13-year-old is not an adult.
X took on the responsibility of an adult when she decided to drive a vehicle.
X took on the responsibility of an adult when she invited a friend to join her in the vehicle, taking on the responsibility for the friend’s safety.
X behaved like an adult when she realized the police were telling her to pull over – she pulled over.
X behaved like some adults, fleeing in the vehicle from officers.
X behaved like some adults when she lost control of the vehicle.
X behaved like some adults when she fled the crash scene on foot.
X behaved like an adult, but our law says she must be considered a child.
Am I disagreeing? Am I suggesting that X should spend a long time, perhaps the rest of her life, in prison?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that two men are dead, and even if X gets the maximum sentence, she’ll walk out of juvenile detention a free person at age 21, records sealed.
I don’t know what’s right.
I do know that I’m mad…and sad.