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11-year-old boy caught driving on busy IE freeways

June 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An 11-year-old Inland Empire boy got behind the wheel of a car and drove it across three Southern California freeways before he was pulled over. Investigators believe the child did as he was told.

The child drove the car from San Bernardino and up the Cajon Pass before he was stopped in Adelanto.

It's hard to imagine an 11-year-old boy traveling 40 miles on busy Southern California freeways, but investigators say a boy drove northbound on the 215 Freeway to the base of the Cajon Pass, then got on the 15 Freeway and traveled up to the top of the pass into the high desert. Then he got on the 395 and drove into Adelanto, where he was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy.

"There's a reason children aren't allowed to drive until they're 16. Even at 16 a lot of times they're not mature enough, and we're very lucky that there weren't any serious accidents and the child wasn't injured," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Dept. Spokesperson Pam Hoffman.

Hoffman says the boy was driving a white 1986 Toyota Tercel.

Terry Varner, 51, now a child-endangerment suspect, had sold the car to someone in San Bernardino, but the buyer never paid up.

Deputies say the suspect decided to repossess the car himself, and to do that he enlisted the services of his girlfriend's 11-year-old son.

Deputies say on Sunday, after picking up the car the boy got in and drove by himself, following his mother's boyfriend up the Cajon Pass on I-15, one of the busiest stretches of freeway in the country.

"It is tough driving on it, and it's dangerous, you have to imagine that he was probably doing 60 or 70 miles an hour coming up the pass with traffic, and following his mom's boyfriend trying to make it through traffic," said Hoffman.

The boy was pulled over by a San Bernardino sheriff's deputy on Highway 395 just north of Seneca Road.

"I think [the deputy] was very surprised to find that it was a juvenile. Luckily it was a small car, but it was a juvenile driving the vehicle," said Hoffman.

Deputies say the boyfriend then fled the scene but was apprehended and arrested not long afterward. Varner has been charged with child endangerment.

The boy was turned over to his mother.

"The mother has been surprised and shocked," said Hoffman. "She was at work and did not know any of this was occurring. She's been very cooperative."

Neither the mother nor the boy are in trouble.

Varner is charged with child endangerment and was held on $100,000 bail.

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