Police: Boy, 8, drove off in mom’s SUV with sibling in back

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — An 8-year-old boy took off in his mother’s SUV and drove through a North Carolina city with an infant sibling in the back seat, police said.

Gastonia police said the boy’s mother reported that she handed the boy her keys and asked him to start the vehicle as they left a relative’s home on Tuesday night, WSOC-TV reported. But police said the boy did more than start the SUV — he drove across town with his 1-year-old sibling in the back seat.

In a 911 call, the boy’s mother reported that the two children were missing, and the family wasn’t sure if someone stole the car or a child drove it away.

“We tried to chase him down the road,” she told the 911 operator.

Gastonia Police spokesman Rick Goodale said the 8-year-old, who is about 4 feet, 6 inches (1.37 meters) tall, drove nearly 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) to his home, then left again before authorities stopped him several blocks later.

“These roads that he traveled are not backcountry roads with no other cars. These are well-traveled roads in the city of Gastonia,” Goodale said. “This could have ended in tragedy.”

The boy’s mother said he had never driven a car and “accidentally” put it in reverse, then put it into drive when it started moving.

The boy said he was scared and drove in the middle of the road to avoid cars, but knew to stop at traffic lights because he watched his mom do it.

The 8-year-old isn’t facing charges, but Goodale said the police department has referred the matter to the Department of Social Services.

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