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    First-grader wrecks car with dad at his side

    By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 17, 2002

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- After Barry Colbert's 7-year-old son finished dinner and his homework and cleaned his room Friday night, he asked for a reward: He wanted to take a spin behind the wheel of the family car.

    Dad said, "Sure."

    So the boy was propped up in the driver's seat to reach the pedals and, with Dad in the passenger seat, off he drove.

    It went badly.

    The boy, driving without lights, missed a stop sign and hit a car, authorities said. Colbert says the lights were on and the other car was at fault.

    No one was hurt, but there was some damage.

    As Colbert took over the wheel and backed up the 1988 Mercury Tracer to take a look, Pasco County sheriff's deputies arrived, Colbert said. They smelled alcohol on Colbert and discovered that his license was suspended.

    They arrested him. They intend to cite his son, too, officials said.

    "I'm not irresponsible," the 38-year-old father said. "I just had a few beers."

    As a reward for being good, Colbert often let his son drive the car. The first-grader is more than 4 feet tall and weighs nearly 100 pounds, his father said.

    The boy, who is not named by the St. Petersburg Times because of his age, scoots the seat forward and puts inline skates behind his back to reach the pedals, including the clutch. The car has a manual transmission.

    "Some kids play with dolls," Colbert said. "My kid wants to drive."

    Two weeks ago the boy's go-cart was stolen, his father said. So his itch to drive has grown even stronger.

    He developed that urge growing up in rural Kentucky, his father said. Back on the farm, Colbert let the boy drive tractors, motorcycles and even a bulldozer.

    "When you're in rural Kentucky, it's all farm," Colbert said. "There's no police out there to tell you that you can't do this and you can't do that."

    They moved to their home just outside New Port Richey about a year ago.

    "I had a couple beers and went back to the feeling that we can go around the block a couple times and be safe," Colbert said.

    According to sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers, the boy was driving without headlights about 9:45 p.m. when the wreck occurred at Terra Ceia Avenue and Smokey Lake Loop, less than a block from Colbert's home.

    The boy will be cited for driving without a license, driving without headlights and running a stop sign, Powers said.

    Colbert faces charges driving while intoxicated, habitually driving with a suspended license and letting an unlicensed person drive, Powers said.

    "They were really lucky there weren't any serious injuries," Powers said.

    The two cars in the accident sustained a total of $3,500 damage, Powers said.

    Two Breathalyzer tests showed Colbert's blood-alcohol level to be 0.109 and 0.128 percent, deputies said. Florida law presumes impairment at 0.08 percent.

    Colbert, of 12025 Smokey Lake Loop, was taken to county jail in Land O'Lakes, where he was released Saturday without bail. His license was suspended in 1996 for failure to pay fines, deputies said.

    Colbert said he expects his son won't get in trouble for the wreck.

    "He's a good kid. That's why I'm so lenient with him," he said. "I don't see why they would punish a kid for something his dad said it was okay to do."

    What about the boy's future as a NASCAR driver?

    "Well, I hope so," Colbert said, "if I don't get him in trouble and shoot that down."

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