According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a Prince George’s County adolescent was attempting to stop his Crown Victoria last Saturday morning at 3:00 a.m., as he struck a crowd of spectators gathered for an illegal street race on a desolate country road. Apparently, the driver was not a participant in the race, and reportedly did not see the crowd of onlookers until it was too late. Eight people died in the collision, another six were injured.
Street racers and street racing fans typically conduct their activities in an underground fashion to avoid attracting the attention of authorities. The Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services — a division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) — lists the following problems most frequently associated with street racing:
- “Vehicle crashes (deaths and injuries to drivers, passengers, onlookers, or innocent bystanders; and property damage);
- Noise (from racing vehicles and crowds);
- Vandalism and litter at racing locations (including businesses where racers commonly gather);
- Loss of commercial revenue (if racing crowds obstruct or intimidate potential customers);
- Excess wear and tear on public streets (painted street markings commonly are damaged by the burning rubber of vehicle tires).”
According to the agency, street racing is a phenomenon that each community must deal with in its own fashion, but they advise that other communities have enacted public safety measures that include the following:
- “Street racers can be charged with engaging in a speed contest and reckless driving, fined up to $1,000, and sentenced to six months in jail in Reno, Nevada. Spectators within 200 feet of an illegal street race can also be arrested and fined up to $200. The driver’s vehicle can be impounded and storage fees assessed at $50 per day.
- The City of Fremont, California banned all traffic between 10 PM and 6 AM on 10 roads popular with street racers and allowed police to impound the vehicles of both drivers and spectators.
- The City of Santee, California made it unlawful for any individual to be a spectator (within 200 feet) at an illegal speed contest, or where preparations are being made for an illegal speed contest; violators are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
- The City of San Diego was among the first to pass a vehicle forfeiture ordinance, in 2003. A vehicle will be declared a nuisance and permanently seized if it was used in a race or exhibition of speed and the driver has a prior conviction for certain serious driving offenses (such as reckless driving or evading officers).”
Street racing is an inherently dangerous and illegal activity. Fast and powerful vehicles can easily become weapons for participants and spectators in these secretive race environments. Because of the underground networking and notification system related to street racing, prevention and investigations are frequently hindered by the very people most in danger. Street racing may look exciting on a movie set, but in real life, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Everyone should remember that driving is a responsibility to be taken seriously.