Power in the Wrong Hands: Why Are Kids Driving Supercars?

The crash was as horrific as it was predictable.

The crash was as horrific as it was predictable. Back in May, near the end of evening rush hour in Encino, California, a 25-year-old male crashed a 2016 Lamborghini Huracán with such violence that he and his 19-year-old girlfriend were ejected from the car and killed instantly.

In an eerie coincidence, I had driven on that exact stretch of Burbank Boulevard just the day before, and I remember thinking, "I bet a lot of drivers speed here." The road is three lanes wide in each direction with a grassy, tree-filled strip in between, the asphalt mostly straight or flowing in long bends, a golf course on one side lending a rare bucolic air to the usual urban crush of Los Angeles's bustling San Fernando Valley. Apparently, the sudden aroma of wide-open freedom got the better of the Lambo driver. Eyewitnesses say the car was traveling well beyond 100 mph when it clipped another vehicle (it may be wide, but Burbank remains a busy Los Angeles thoroughfare) and spun into a tree. The Huracán split in half and burst into flames.

Every cliché was on display here, starting with a young male strutting at the helm of a supercar. The driver was an automotive photographer and also worked at a luxury car rental company that owned the Huracán. Because he was "in the car business," it's not hard to imagine that by association he thus believed he possessed above-average driving skills. Now add the obvious catalyst—a pretty young girl the young male needs to impress—and you have all the ingredients of a shocking tragedy.

The standout word here is young. Who gives the keys to a 580-horsepower Lamborghini to a 25-year-old? Yes, it's possible (though I strongly doubt it) the driver in this incident had at least some performance-car training, but even that remote possibility is negated entirely by his actions. No one with even a half-liter of driving savvy would ever push a car to 100 mph on a city street. Ever. Attend any good racing school, and one of the first things you learn is that race driving and street driving have almost nothing in common (other than looking where you want to go and striving always to be smooth).

The first time you push a car to its limits on a closed track, you realize, "There's no way I could do this on the road." So you don't. The pro racers I know, when they drive road cars in public, always operate well within their reserves. There's no need for high-revving ostentation; they actually are skilled. Slashing through traffic, gunning away from stoplights, speeding at twice or three times the limit—those are the hallmarks of the wanker.

Scientists will tell you that the human brain—specifically, the prefrontal cortex that controls such cognitive functions as decision-making and social behavior—doesn't fully develop until at least age 25. Whether they explicitly say so or not, car-rental companies understand this well, which is why you either can't rent a car before that age, or you'll pay a premium to do so. Below 25, humans—especially males, who mature more slowly than females—struggle with self-discipline and impulse control (see also: toga party). The chilling translation: A young male driver in a supercar is a modern-day Pandora. He's going to open the box—the risks and consequences to him or anyone else be damned.

Which raises the obvious question: What the hell are rash-thinking, underdeveloped Homo sapiens doing behind the wheels of cars making 400, 600, even 800 horsepower? This is a hot-button issue for me partly because of where I live, in West Los Angeles, a renowned parade ground for fabulous automobiles. Part of me delights in being able to see Ferraris, Lambos, McLarens, and Bugattis passing by on a regular basis. Yet more and more I'm seeing these hyper-potent road rockets piloted not by gray-haired business types enjoying the fruits of their labors, but by kids. Around the UCLA campus it's common to see BMW M3s and Mercedes-AMGs and even the occasional Aston Martin squired by an 18- or 19-year-old in a backward baseball cap. No normal teen could afford a $70,000-plus automobile; surely, these are gifts from one-percenter parents equally unconcerned about paying full-fare tuitions so their out-of-state spawn can attend a great school.

Never mind the risks, these parents apparently think, our kid deserves the best. So I hear the M3s and AMGs and McLarens screaming up and down the boulevards, gearboxes hammering out showy redline shifts, occasional whoops emanating from adrenalin-soaked passengers, the young and the clueless squealing through L.A. thanks to parents with more money than wisdom—parents who think a proper child's gift is a lit stick of TNT.