Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Spoiled kids, alcohol, and a 500HP BMW M5 don't mix.

Lots of people have been following this story involving 5 Ocala, FL teens who were killed when they were travelling in a 2008 BMW M5 being raced down an active private airstrip in the middle of the night. The driver apparently misjudged the runway length and the car hit an embankment at the end of the runway, launching the car into the air and into a tree where it broke into multiple pieces, killing all on board. The Florida Highway Patrol initially suggested that alcohol may have played a part in the accident based on some information from friends of the kids in the car.

I've read additional follow ups to the story which seem to indicate that the 2008 M5 belonged to the 19 year old driver even though it was registered to his father. The driver, just days prior to the accident had joined an M5 forum asking how to make the car faster and inquiring about a clunk that the car made while shifting at wide open throttle in excess of 140mph. The people on the forum expressed disbelief at the fact that this 19 yr old owned the car and cautioned him regarding his inexperience in driving in general, let alone in a 500HP super sedan.

Various different forums I check in on are discussing this in length and the majority of the sentiment is that of no sympathy toward the kids in the car or their families. I have to agree. I find it hard to understand parents just throwing a kid the keys to a new M5. How can you expect a 19yr old to respect or control a car like that. At 19 most people have a total of what, a couple of years of driving experience. I've been driving for about 20 years and I'd be scared shitless to explore the limits of an M5 and I'd certainly be smart enough not to try it anywhere but on a track. I also wouldn't attempt it after drinking. Unfortunately these are decisions based on experience and maturity, things this kid did not have. At least he was smart enough not to try it on public roads.

This accident is as much the fault of the parents of the driver as it is the driver's himself. Not only did they give him this car capable of almost 200 mph and let him loose on the streets to potentially kill innocent people but they did it after this kid had racked up more than a few moving violations in his very short driving career. As a matter of fact, I think every kid in the car had more than one violation on their record. Sure, the passengers aren't responsible for the accident and I don't know the circumstances surrounding what happened in the car. For all I know they were begging him to slow down. Having been a teenager once, I think it was more likely that they were egging him on. They should have been smart enough to not get in the car if the driver had been drinking.

I'm not a huge fan of spoiled kids, having grown up in an area full of them. Parents that overly indulge their kids as a substitute for good parenting disgust me as well. Have you ever seen the show "My Super Sweet Sixteen" on MTV? I've seen it once and I was about to put my foot through the TV. It's amazing seeing parents surprise their spoiled brats with $50,000 + cars and then the kid throwing tantrums because it wasn't the color or the car they wanted.

Even if I was ridiculously wealthy and could afford to get my son an $80,000 car, I wouldn't. Not until he had some more driving experience and not until he proved he could be responsible enough to take care of it and drive it properly. He would have to show me that he can save money toward a first car and I would make sure it was a car he could handle. If I ever did get him a car with reasonable performance, I'd take an active role in teaching him how to properly drive it. I'd send him to a performance driving school, hell, I'd go myself. We all could use some additional driver training. Then I'd point him toward a safe way to experience the performance and limits of the car. Something like autocross or track days.

Yes, this kid probably would have done something stupid and dangerous even if he was driving a 100HP Honda Civic. Still, an M5 can hit triple digit speeds in the time it takes a Civic to hit 50mph which makes any stunt that more dangerous and deadly if you don't respect or control that power.

Finally, I would not be the least bit surprised if someone related to this finds some way to try to sue BMW or even the airstrip. Why not, no one in this country is responsible for their own actions anymore.

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