MONTREAL – A Quebec father who got a kick out of filming his seven-year-old son driving the family SUV says he regrets letting his little boy get behind the wheel.
The man, who claims his footage of little Samuel cruising down a back country road was shot two years ago, admitted Tuesday it was the wrong choice to let the kid drive.
In a video that surfaced on YouTube, dad rode shotgun with his camera in hand and proudly delivered perky play-by-play of his son’s excursion.
But the gag wasn’t funny to Quebec provincial police, who discovered the clip and opened an investigation.
The father says he thinks the whole thing has been overblown.
“They’re making it out as though as I killed someone,” the father, who calls himself Sylvain, said in an interview with veteran Montreal crime reporter Claude Poirier.
“I regret it all. It was a bad decision on my part, but come on.”
Police were also alarmed that none of the vehicle’s four occupants seen on camera – including Samuel – appeared to be wearing a seatbelt as the SUV travelled through a forest in Quebec’s North Shore region.
A little girl is seen sitting on a woman’s lap in the back seat.
At one point in the video, Sylvain boasts that his son has hit 70 km/h.
But on Tuesday, the father, who lives in the Lanaudiere town of St-Lin-Laurentides, indicated the boy never exceeded 40 km/h.
“Yes, I said at one point that he was going 70, but it was just a joke I threw out there,” he said.
“I would have never let my boy drive at that speed.”
Sylvain said he taught his son how to drive and felt his family was safe on a dirt road that he says didn’t have any other cars on it.
In the footage, Samuel appears comfortable in the driver’s seat, gripping the wheel with both hands while gnashing down on a wad of gum.
“I had confidence in him,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have done this with just anyone
“I posted it (online) because I was proud of my little guy because he was able to drive a car.”
The father also indicated that he’s prepared to face any legal consequences.
On Tuesday, provincial police would not say if they had spoken to the father, but confirmed the investigation is ongoing.
A spokeswoman for the Canada Safety Council believes this type of incident doesn’t happen enough to be considered a major issue.
“I’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they know that this is wrong and that it’s not happening often,” said Valerie Powell from her Ottawa office.
“These cases, when they do come out, they’re kind of like isolated incidents.”
Powell said she’s heard of children driving vehicles in the United States, including the recent case of another seven-year-old in Utah who became a media sensation when a video emerged of him leading police on a chase.
But this is the first time she’s heard of anything like this in Canada.
Last year, the debate on whether underage drivers should be allowed behind the wheel of the family car made headlines in Saskatchewan.
Premier Brad Wall apologized after he admitted to giving driving lessons to his 14-year-old daughter on public roads.
Still, many children in farming communities learn how to drive from early on, said Ryan Melsted, who raises cattle and grain in Wynyard, Sask., about 160 kilometres north of Regina.
“I’m in rural Saskatchewan so it’s kind of a way of life as kids (are) growing up,” said Melsted, who started driving farm equipment by himself around his folks’ property at age 12.
Melsted figures that he, like many youngsters who grow up in rural Canada, started driving the family pickup truck on the farm at 14 – but never on the road.
“By the time you’re 13 or 14 you know how to drive and if you had to drive by yourself in a truck it wouldn’t be a problem at all,” said Melsted, who watched Samuel’s video.
“When I saw it I thought it was pretty strange – that’s pretty young to be able to drive a vehicle on your own. He’s obviously had some training or practice, I would think.”