A Houston father is now facing charges after allowing his 12-year-old daughter to drive his car. The girl struck and killed a man and his dog while practicing in a parking lot, leading to some serious questions about a common parenting practice.
Police have told reporters from local CBS News affiliate KHOU11 that 42-year-old Tomas Meija let his 12-year-old daughter take his car for a spin. The girl drove Meija's black Ford Explorer around the parking lot of an apartment complex, but she did not get far before running into a pedestrian.
While pulling out of a parking space, the girl reportedly hit a man walking his dog nearby. Panicking, she hit the accelerator instead of the brake, finally stopping when she hit a tree. Both Vazquez and the dog died on the scene. He was later identified as 47-year-old Enrique Vazquez.
Meija reportedly told first responders that it had been him driving the car. However, police said that they reviewed security footage, which showed the 12-year-old behind the wheel. The incident took place at about 4:25 p.m. local time on Beverly Street in Houston.
Meija has now been charged with criminal negligent homicide and endangering a child. Prosecutors are expected to go after him for initially lying about who was driving the car. Witnesses said that the girl herself was treated wearily by police, and that she was even given a field sobriety test.
"They did her like she was drunk," a neighbor told reporters. "We were wondering why they would do that test on her if she's just like a teenager. She's not supposed to be drunk or anything."
"That's the big question," another witness said. "I mean, for me, I would never allow my children behind the wheel of the car, especially not at that age. Very tragic for the gentleman and his dog to be hit and killed."
Neighbors said that Vazquez was often seen walking his dogs in the area. Officials warned that this is one of the main dangers of allowing a child behind the wheel, as the adult is never truly in control.0comments
"You can't allow a young child to drive in a populated place," said Sean Teare, the chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Office Vehicular Crimes Division. "If you're going to teach a young person how to drive, go to an empty parking lot. Go somewhere where you're not going to have the potential for taking someone's life."
Teare added, "Every time you turn the wheel, or you turn the key on a car, you are strapping on a deadly weapon."