Reader W.S. (Mailbag, Jan. 27) has more to say about my post on Shelby Huck, the Virginia girl a month away from her 16th birthday who died after crashing a brand-new Volkswagen Jetta into an embankment during a 100-mph police chase at 4 a.m. on Jan. 17 (see my “Requiem for an Unsupervised Teenager,” Jan. 17):
“Shelby’s mother DID NOT buy the car for Shelby. This is clear in her quote [from a Jan. 19 Washington Post’s story about the accident–now requires registration] that is actually in Ms. Allen’s original article, when [Shelby’s mother] says ‘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.’
“Maybe this was too complicated for Ms. Allen to understand, so I will explain it. Mrs. Young bought the car NOT as a gift for Shelby, but rather as a more manageable, supposedly safe car for Shelby to learn on. Mrs. Young was seeking to make learning to drive an easier task for her young daughter. However, this was NOT Shelby’s car and she DID NOT have full access to it.
“Further, neither parent condoned Shelby driving without a permit and certainly neither parent would allow Shelby to drive by herself. The car was for the time when they would need to teach Shelby to drive, that was not necessarily the time of the tragedy. It may be hard to believe, but a 15-year old girl possesses the mental capacity to know where her mother keeps her car keys. Furthermore, a 15-year old girl possesses the ability to sneak into her mother’s room and take the keys in the middle of the night. What confuses me is that Ms. Allen assumes that a young girl sneaking into her mother’s room and taking her keys while she sleeps qualifies as approval by the mother for her daughter to drive away in the middle of the night to visit her boyfriend. Mrs. Young neither knew nor approved Shelby’s plan to drive to her boyfriend’s house. For some reason, though, Ms. Allen feels it necessary to make this claim in order to support her beliefs. Ms. Allen apparently is willing to twist the facts of an unfortunate tragedy to place blame and guilt on innocent, grieving parents in order to further her own agenda. This is morally deplorable and sickens me to read.”
OK, W.S., here is the complete quotation from the Washington Post story:
“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. Young said that as far as she knows her daughter had never before been behind the wheel of a car alone.”
Buying a car for the purpose of giving your child driving lessons sounds like buying a car “for” your child to me. “For” means conveying a benefit, not necessarily conveying ownership, which would have been legally impossible under the circumstances in any event. The fact remains that Shelby Huck had in fact received many a driving lesson from someone (and knew how to drive to her boyfriend’s and back in the middle of the night), and that her mother never denied that she knew Shelby had been behind the wheel of a car before that night, even though she lacked the learner’s permit that the law requires.