Rash of teens eluding police behind the wheel in Northeast Ohio; what’s behind the joy rides and chases?

A rash of teens eluding police behind the wheel; what’s behind the joy rides and chases?

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a dangerous phenomenon. A rash of teen drivers here in Northeast Ohio has become a handful for local police lately. Leading authorities on car chases, sometimes in stolen cars and trying to escape trouble by causing even more chaos.

Whether it’s boredom, curiosity, or young people just plain tired of sitting at home during this pandemic, teens are getting behind the wheel and causing big trouble not only for themselves but others.

In the dashcam video 19 News obtained from Lakewood Police, a car with no headlights is pulled over. It appears to be a routine traffic stop for officers Thursday night. But before the cops can talk to the teen driver, he takes off not once but twice.

You hear Lakewood Police tell dispatch, “He took off at a high rate of speed eastbound on Madison. He’s running; he’s running. He just crashed.”

The 16-year-old driver crashed into the Walgreen’s sign and then bailed out of the car on foot. Initially, you see the teen reach back in the car for something that police later said was likely his cell phone.

Captain Gary Stone is with Lakewood Police, “After they placed him under arrest, he admitted that he did not have a license. He was 16 years old. He lived in Lakewood, and he was driving his parents’ car without permission. He was ashamed about the whole thing and upset about the whole thing.”

But he’s not the first teen lately to attempt to elude police.

In Toledo, a 15-year old led officers on a chase in excess of 100 miles per hour. He lost control of the stolen car, crashed, and lost his life. Two other male teens in the car were hospitalized for their injuries.

In February, a chase through downtown Cleveland was initially believed to be two teens with guns who kidnapped another teenager. But the vehicle crashed, and after all three teens ran from the police and were eventually captured, officers questioned what was really going on in the case.

“Young people tend to panic sometimes when they’re doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. And then they take off. Don’t do that,” Captain Stone said.

So, what’s causing this rash of teens to panic, take a joy ride, and forget about the law? Possibly kids couped up too long during the pandemic, just plain teen trouble or curiosity. But if the teen in Lakewood who was driving without a license would have just obeyed police the first time, Captain Stone says, “Most likely he would have gotten a ticket for driving without a license. Now he’s getting a ticket for driving without a license and fleeing and eluding and damaging property and damaging his parents’ car.”

Captain Stone says kids can still have fun, but do it the legal way, have permission to drive the car, and have a license. Remembering speeding off can hurt not only you but others.

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