12-Year-Old Drives A Third of the Way Across Australia Alone

In today's tale from Down Under, one determined and decently-skilled runaway.

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Running away from home is practically a preteen rite of passage. Still, it's kind of hard to compare hiding out at your friend's house with climbing behind the wheel of the family car and embarking on a solo trek across southern Australia. But apparently that's how it's done down under, where police outside the remote mining town of Broken Hill were astonished to pull over a 12-year-old boy who had driven a battered Hyundai Santa Fe more than 24 hours and 800 miles in an bid to cross the continent by himself. There's commitment, and then there's complete and utter dedication to the mission.

At around 11am local time on Friday morning, our unnamed hero swiped the keys to his family's little crossover and set out from the small town of Kendall on Australia's eastern coast, a few hours north of Sydney, intending to drive over 2,500 miles to the city of Perth on the opposite side of the continent. He might have actually made it there if it weren't for a little body damage—police say they pulled him over about a third of the way into his journey because an officer spotted the Hyundai dragging its front bumper on the road, allegedly torn off in an unspecified accident.

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Now, you may be curious how a 12-year-old driving on public roads and highways for that long escaped everyone's attention, especially considering his parents reported him missing soon after he took off. According to a service manager who witnessed him stealing gas early Saturday morning, he looks to be "maybe 19 or 20" and police added he's about six feet tall. And once he made his way from the densely-populated coast, the roads he would have used are pretty desolate. Assuming the bumper incident involved a roadside rock or some unlucky animal, it's not inconceivable to imagine him getting this far. 

Even if we feel a twinge of disappointment over his plans being thwarted after such an impressive effort, we're also glad he was stopped. For one, just because he made it that far without a serious accident doesn't mean that streak would have continued. The Australian Outback has some of the world's most dangerous highways, featuring high-speed truck traffic and lots of animals all wrapped up in a completely inhospitable environment with few places for help. The New York Times points out that had he kept going, the boy would have had to drive through the Nullarbor Plain, a desert wasteland that most recommend special preparations for crossing. His parents are reportedly "extremely relieved," and he's probably in a world of trouble.