Mental health experts in the city said they regularly counsel children on the issue of underage driving and often come across willful youngsters who steal their parents’ keys and sneak out at night to take the car for a spin.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old boy ran over a 45-year-old woman while illegally driving a car in Malad. The woman was declared dead at hospital.
“Many parents come to us complaining that their children have been stealing car keys or are constantly throwing tantrums to be allowed to drive. Parents have set limits clearly and should not give into the child’s demands at the risk of people’s lives,” said Dr Anjali Chabbria, a psychologist.
The prospect of driving a car is among many teenagers’ most cherished aspirations, parents said.
“When my daughter was 17, she knew how to drive, but I didn’t allow her to take the car out. I even spotted her driving her friend’s car once, but we were not okay with it,” said Sandhya Tari, a Kandivli resident.
According to Dr Bharat Shah, a psychiatrist at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra, parents should not suddenly try to discipline their children when they are in their late teens, but should start early.
“Discipline needs to be cultivated from childhood onwards. Demanding toys such as video games can one day transform into demanding a car or the permission to drive. These can only be controlled if the child listens to you,” said Shah.
Doctors said parents give in to tantrums for the fear of embarrassment. “They don’t want neighbours to see their children crying or shouting so they let them do what they want. But what parents don’t see are the long-term repercussions,” said a psychiatrist from a public hospital.