I’ve been following with fascination the story of Shelby Huck, a 15-year-old Virgnia girl who crashed a brand-new Vokswagen Jetta into an embankment during a high-speed police chase at 4 a.m. on Tuesday and died a few hours later in a hospital emergency ward.

What’s amazing about the story is that Shelby’s mother had bought the car for her. Yes, you read that right. As in most states, you’ve got to be 16 in order to qualify for a driver’s license in Virginia–but, hey, Shelby was only one month away from her 16th birthday! No matter that she didn’t even have a learner’s permit, for which you can qualify at age 15 1/2 but which does require that you have a licensed driver in the car with you to supervise your driving.

Here’s what the sheriff’s office said:

“Sheriff’s office officials said yesterday that by the time deputies, who were working with radar equipment, caught up with Huck’s Jetta on Route 15, she was traveling 80 mph. Cruiser lights and sirens did nothing to slow the speeding vehicle, which accelerated to 100 mph before swerving into an embankment and going airborne, they said. The pursuit lasted less than 90 seconds.”

According to the sheriff’s report, Shelby was thrown from the car during the crash. Sounds as though no one taught her that it’s a good idea to wear a seatbelt during high-speed police chases.

Now for a word from Shelby’s mother, Julie Young, who vehemently denies that her daughter would have had any reason to flee the police (although I can think of a couple right offhand myself–such as that she was breaking several laws and was out at 4 a.m. on a school night):

“Young said her daughter, a sophomore and varsity cheerleader at Loudoun Valley High School, apparently sneaked out of their home in Hamilton to visit an ex-boyfriend she had recently reconciled with. She was on her way home at 4 a.m. when the crash occurred.

“Although Young acknowledged that her daughter should not have been driving without a license, she vehemently contested the sheriff department’s account that Huck was trying to elude law enforcement. Rather, she characterized Huck as a novice driver who confused the brake pedal and the accelerator and would have been terrified driving on the road alone at night.

“Huck did not have a learner’s permit, which can be obtained in Virginia at age 15 1/2 and requires supervision. Young said she purchased the Jetta as a second car in part to give driving lessons to Huck, who she said would not have felt comfortable behind the wheel of the family’s large SUV.”

Well, maybe Young really didn’t know where her daughter had been–and Shelby really did find the car keys, slip out of the house sight unseen, and somehow make her way to the home of a “boyfriend” who lived several miles away and who didn’t see fit –or didn’t have the maturity–to find someone with a driver’s license, such as himself, perhaps, to escort her home. Maybe.

Shelby’s parents, as you might suspect, are divorced (or possibly, they never married). And one of the tragedies of Shelby Huck’s very short life was that she seems not to have had two parents who worked together to keep her safe and in the house where she should have been that night–and to wonder whether it was really appropriate for a 15-year-old girl to have a boyfriend, especially a boyfriend at liberty to entertain female visitors in the middle of the night.

When parents divorce, they commonly stop working in tandem for the good of their children and set up a game of competition over who can give the children the most things–or to show them how cool they, the parents, are, by giving their children maximum freedom and minimal supervision. Before she died, Shelby had been planning a mammouth 16th birthday party, all to be paid for by someone.

Shelby Huck is now dead, poor thing, the victim of so many things that have gone wrong in family life today.