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Kids Driving Cars

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"Oh, isn't that cute? A baby driving a car! And look, there's a dog driving a bus!"
Chief Wiggum, The Simpsons
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In most developed countries, people under a certain age, usually 15 or 16, are barred from driving cars. In TV-land, children and younger teens may be seen driving if the plot demands it, even though doing so would be illegal or downright impossible in real life. Sometimes, they even drive more-or-less effectively despite having never done so before.

Sometimes, the adult characters are nowhere to be seen and the kids must drive somewhere to save the day. In these cases, expect I Know Mortal Kombat to come into play, with the kid turning out to be a Badass Driver due to their experience playing Racing Games or driving toy vehicles. This is obviously due to Rule of Cool and very much Artistic License – Cars- with particularly young children one wonders how their feet can even reach the pedals. This is often a form of Wish Fulfillment for car-loving kid audiences. Other times, Reality Ensues and Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing? comes into play.

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Other times, particularly with older kids and teens, the characters may drive for illicit pleasure, sometimes playing a Game of Chicken or joyriding stolen cars. Such characters are likely Delinquents.

In either case, if the kids are the protagonist this tends to happen in a climactic scene. Rarely is the car the kid's own, so there's usually a subplot about the characters trying to sneakily leave with or return the car. Chances are high that the car used is The Precious, Precious Car, particularly if the kid Drives Like Crazy as is often the case. May be justified by Minor with Fake ID.

In historical, non-Western, or rural settings, where auto regulations are less strict and Free-Range Children is in effect, children driving cars or farm vehicles may be Truth in Television. In these cases, children driving can establish the setting as a simpler, more self-reliant time or establish the young driver as exceptionally mature. This can also be Played for Drama if the driving is a form of child labor.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tiff from Kirby: Right Back at Ya! drives a car in the Kirby 3D special.
  • Seraph of the End has two examples. In both cases, a teenager drives a car. Yuichiro can not wait to drive with a car, even though the person who has just repaired the car tells him that he will teach him to drive later. It comes as expected, and Yuichiro drives the car to scrap.
    • Then there is Shinoa. She is actually a very competent driver, at least in comparison to Yuichiro. However, she is much too small to see where she drives, which leads to some mocking.
  • In Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, while Fukaziroh isn't actually a kid (aged 19), her in-game avatar is only around 150cm tall so that she has the appearance of one. Despite her size, she's able to drive a large humvee with no difficulty.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Spirit, the Spirit's kid sidekick Ebony White drives a cab for a living.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dante's Peak: When the volcano erupts, Rachel's two kids steal her truck so they can drive up the mountain to rescue grandma.
  • Up to Eleven in a 1924 silent short called "Dream Picture", where a baby is abandoned in a car and drives away. His parents find him after he's stopped by a traffic cop for driving erratically.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy has Short Round act as a getaway driver for his meeting with Lao Che. Short Round's age isn't given, but his actor (Ke Huy Quan) was thirteen when the movie came out. He ties boxes around his feet to operate the pedals of the car.
  • In Logan, the 11-year-old Laura is able to drive around a truck that she and Logan are traveling in. It's perplexing that her feet can even reach the pedals.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Everett, Pete, and Delmer manage to escape from a burning barn when Boy Hogwallop bursts through the barn door in his dad's car and offers them a lift. Since Boy is quite small, he uses a brick to weigh down the accelerator. Later, Everett steals the car, leaving Boy to curse him, Pete and Delmer as he walks back to his dad's farm.
  • Junior of Problem Child is able to drive Ben's car by reclining under the dash and working the wheel from overhead. Obviously, he can't see where he's going like this, so Ben has to yell directions to him from his perch on the windshield (or while standing up through the sunroof, when they deliberately do this later to team up against the baddie). By the second movie, he's gotten good enough to just take the wheel like normal... and is quite familiar with the ol' highway salute.
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the fifteen-year-old Peter Parker, while dressed as Spider-Man, decides to "borrow" the car of Flash Thompson. However, he has yet to have a license and hasn't really had any practice aside from a driving around the parking lot. Predictably his driving is awful and the car comes out worse for wear by the time he arrives at his destination.
  • Star Trek (2009): A young Jim Kirk steals a very old-model car and goes for a joyride to the tune of The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." When he tries to escape law enforcement, he winds up sending the car over the cliff, barely escaping in time.note 
  • In the The Lovely Bones, In a flashback scene a 12-year-old Susie Salmon takes her parents' car so she can take her younger brother Buckley to the hospital after noticing that he's choking on a twig.
  • In X2: X-Men United it is humorously inverted. After some teenage mutants and Wolverine escape, they find a car. Pyro says he wants to drive, but Wolverine stops him.
  • At the end of The Poker House fourteen-year-old Agnes (played by Jennifer Lawrence), drives in the family's station wagon to pick up her younger sisters after winning her basketball game.
  • In E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, during an emergency Elliot's brother Michael, who was around the age of 15, goes to hijack and drive away the van with E.T. inside.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs shows Marco. He claims to be able to drive because he knows it from computer games. In fact, he demonstrates his lousy driving skills in the first book. Even in later volumes, his bad driving style is presented with humor. Even Ax, an alien, is scared when Marco gets behind the wheel.
    • Much later, it turns out that Tobias is even a much worse driver.
  • In Daniel Pinkwater's Borgel, the protagonist, who is somewhere in the 9-13 age range, ends up abandoned at an interdimensional root beer stand with his uncle's car. After being trapped there for a month, he gets fed up and drives away through space. He does a pretty good job and ends up rescuing his uncle, despite being a kid who had never driven before.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: When the nine-year-old Danny fears that his father has been injured while poaching, he takes a customer's car out to fetch him. Despite driving quite slowly, in complete terror, and being passed by a police car, he manages it without incident. Justified since he's helped out in his father's car repair shop for most of his life and knows them inside and out.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Weasley twins (age 13) rescue Harry from his uncle's house in a flying car. Later on, Harry and Ron (age 12) go on an hours-long road trip in the same car, which they end up crashing, though this has more to do with the car malfunctioning than their driving skills. They get in trouble for using the car both times.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians it is humorously inverted. Zoe Nightshade is a very good driver. According to her own statement, she has been driving ever since cars were invented (in fact she is already thousands of years old). Her companions, however, are worried that the police will stop her because she looks like a young teenage girl.
    • Thalia Grace obviously can drive too. In fact, Apollo leaves her even for a short time his sun chariot.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth Milo, who's a young boy, drives around in a toy automobile. This being the sixties, it must've been a pedal car (if one with a glove compartment ?!?), but upon reaching the Lands Beyond it transforms into a miniature real car, albeit one with an infinite gas tank or battery.
  • The children's book series The Sisters Eight involves eight sisters being left alone without a guardian after their parents mysteriously vanish. Whenever they have to go somewhere, Annie (who is only seven) dresses up as an adult and drives the car, using sticks to reach to pedals. It actually works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a drug-infusing chocolate is distributed throughout Sunnydale, which is why adults behave like children and teenagers again. After Joyce, Buffy's mother, also ate this chocolate, she gives Buffy her car. And Buffy demonstrates such a wild driving style that Willow is utterly horrified and scared, and in fact, Buffy gets into an accident that damages the car. Later, Buffy says that the damage happened in the fight against evil, but Joyce is still not amused.
    • The same episode shows two adults behaving like teens again, driving a car for fun. It ends with an accident in which some property damage happens, but nobody gets hurt.
  • G.B.H. has a scene in which a family needs to drive to another city but their usual driver is unavailable, so their ten-year-old son offers to drive. On the way, a policeman considers pulling them over because he feels that something "just isn't right", but decides against it after his partner points out that the driver's driving is flawless. When they arrive at their destination, Michael Murray recognizes the car and expects that one of his enemies will be driving, but when he looks in the window and sees a ten-year-old driving, it triggers the worst yet attack of a nervous tic in his arm.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it is revealed that 14-year-old Ashley has been secretly driving cars ever since she was twelve years old. But it turns out to be a good thing because nobody else is around to drive her pregnant mother to the hospital to have her baby.
  • In the second season of Stranger Things, Steve (18) blacks out after his fight with Billy. Since he was the only one in the group old enough to drive, Max (13) ends up driving everyone to the pumpkin patch. Needless to say, she doesn't kill anyone, but Steve is very alarmed when he wakes up to find an eighth-grader driving the car.
  • In an episode of Young Sheldon, 14-year old George Jr. steals Meemaw's car keys and car to drive him, Sheldon and Missy all to the hospital to go see their father who has been hospitalized by a heart attack. Being too afraid to get in an accident or be noticed by authorities, Georgie goes too slowly.

    Theater 
  • 13: During the song "A Little More Homework", Eddie states he "got busted for driving his dad's pickup" when he turned thirteen.

    Video Games 
  • In the Mario Kart series, since Double Dash, baby versions of Mario characters are able to drive cars alongside their adult counterparts. Certain games even have cars that are specifically designed for them.
  • In The Simpsons: Road Rage and The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Bart and Lisa are able to drive vehicles despite only being ten and eight years old, respectively. In Road Rage, they're limited to just driving the Honor Roller and the Electaurus, respectively, but in Hit and Run, they, like Homer, Marge, and Apu, can drive any type of vehicle they want.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, the then 15-year-old Ben Tennyson reveals he got taught to drive in emergencies even though he has yet to try out for his license.
  • In Busytown Mysteries from the Richard Scarry universe, Huckle drives around in a car, his sister Sally rides around on a motor scooter and Pig Will & Pig Won't drive a pickle car.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, at the beginning of "Operation I.-S.C.R.E.A.M.", Numbuh Four is seen driving an ice cream truck while the others fight off ice cream men. And in general, Numbuh Two is often seen piloting a lot of air mechs.
  • The Fairly OddParents! film Channel Chasers features a segment that parodies Speed Racer. Timmy, of course, ends up racing and wins, but he's then called out by the referee as being "too young to race in this race".
  • Gravity Falls: In the chase scene of the first part of "Weirdmaggedon", Wendy (who's 15 years old) drives a truck while she and Dipper are escaping Gideon and his henchman. It doesn't help that she clarifies she never drove before that moment.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "As Old As The Hills", Bobby (who is about 12 at this point) is forced to drive his grandmother-in-law Didi to the hospital when she goes into labor.
  • The Little Rascals: Spanky almost always drives the gang's wooden car, though the intro to The Monchhichis/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show has Alfalfa driving.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • "The Secret of Success" features the boys creating an "All Terrain Vehicle"—one that can truly go anywhere. They drive around in it to show off how "All Terrain" it truly is. They operate it with a remote control, on the questionably logic that remote control cars don't need licenses.
    • "The Fast and the Phineas" has Phineas and Ferb convert their mother's car into a race car, which Phineas then uses in an actual race. Their age is once again lampshaded, with the car once again being controlled via remote.
  • Piggsburg Pigs!: The title pigs drive around in motor vehicles. In fact, the episode "Vampire Dogs of Mars" actually has Pighead and Portley stopping at a gas station to fuel up their car.
  • PJ Masks: All three of the Masks have their own signature vehicles, while nighttime villain Romeo drives a mobile lab shaped approximately like a street-sweeper.
  • The Simpsons
    • A flashback in "Some Enchanted Evening" shows Bart as a toddler starting the car and almost running over the babysitter.
    • The plot of "Bart on the Road" has Bart and some of his friends using a fake drivers license to drive across the country.
    • When Milhouse begins impersonating his father, one of the first things he does is rent a truck and drive it. He then crashes it... and goes to rent another truck.
    • In "Little Big Girl", Bart steals every fire extinguisher in Springfield Elementary to propel his wagon. As Bart rockets around town, the foam released from the extinguishers puts out a wildfire the townspeople of Springfield unsuccessfully try to extinguish. Bart is cheered as a hero by everyone and rewarded with a driver's license by Mayor Quimby, leading him to use Homer's car for his own pleasure.
    • Maggie gets behind the wheel in "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie", crashing into the prison and letting prisoners run free. This leads to Bart getting punished and not being allowed to see the movie.
    • A brief gag in "Sideshow Bob Roberts": Lisa tells Homer she's tired of listening to right-wing pundit Birch Barlow. Homer tells her that when she drives she can listen to what she wants to. Cut to Lisa driving while listening to "St. Elmo's Fire", only to switch back because Homer doesn't like the song.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Downplayed in "Lars and the Cool Kids": In an emergency, Lars (who's apparently old enough to drive, though not necessarily licensed) takes the wheel of Jenny's delivery car, but doesn't know how to drive stick, so Steven takes over that part. Steven's shifting it so bad Lars may well have tried it himself, but they reach their destination in time regardless.
    • In "Beach City Drift", Steven and Connie go for a joyride in Greg's new car, fusing to form Stevonnie so they'll look old enough and be tall enough to drive. Stevonnie turns out to be an amazing driver (which one crewmember jokingly attributed to "video games") and gets the car back undamaged. Later, in "Lars of the Stars", Stevonnie is able to pilot a Space Fighter with a similar level of skill because the cockpit is based on a car's.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, as in the United States kids as young as 10 are allowed to drive farm vehicles on private land. In rural areas, middle school-aged children routinely drive ATVs, farm trucks, snowmobiles and the like which greatly resemble cars. This trope gets zigzagged at times too. In many jurisdictions, said minors can still be prosecuted under certain conditions such as driving while intoxicated, driving without insurance, reckless driving, etc.

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