October 17, 2021
Street Racing: Too High a Price for a Thrill Ride
By Jonathan Damashek
People have been racing for as long as something can move them. It could be horses, bicycles, motorcycles, or cars. It’s the thrill of doing something dangerous. But the potential cost for an illegal street race is lives lost and serious injuries.
Nearly 3,000 drag racing complaint calls were made to NYC’s 311 number from May 2020 to May 2021, five times more than the year before, reports CBS New York.
Dangerous Drivers Unleashed on New York City Streets
Even under the most controlled circumstances, with cars on a legitimate drag strip and safety crews already at the scene, racing is still hazardous. So, if you take away all the controls and put race cars on a city street at night, every race is a disaster waiting to happen.
Vehicles could be traveling more than 100 miles an hour. And remember, the drivers are amateurs. They may be influenced by delusions from movies and drag race YouTube videos dancing in their heads.
The vehicles may also be modified to go much faster than what you can buy at a dealer, but their brake systems may not be enough to stop them safely.
To These Drivers, Their Victims Just Got in the Way
Deaths and injuries from street racing are common. One speeding driver killed a 20-year-old woman and injured a 23-year-old-man while they waited for a bus in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in August, reports WABC.
Police say three cars raced down Utica Avenue – faster than its 25 miles per hour limit – when one jumped the curb, hitting the victims.
One of those involved reportedly got out of a vehicle and went to the deceased, Aniya Blandon, just in time to see her die of her injuries. He got back into the car, left the scene, and was wanted by police.
The Problem is Nationwide
In Osceola County, Florida, two racing teens, 17 and 19-years-old, crashed, killing an 11-year-old girl and injuring two women in April, reports Click Orlando.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos R. Lopez stated, “These two that were involved in this fatality walked away like nothing and were more concerned with their cars, are they totaled, you know, no remorse.”
The Laws Against Illegal Racing Don’t Do Much
The deaths of a 5-year-old and 17-year old caused by street racers inspired the passing of New York’s anti-street racing law, N.Y. VAT. LAW § 1182. It states, “No races, exhibitions or contests of speed shall be held, and no person shall engage in or aid or abet in any motor vehicle or other speed contest or exhibition of speed on a highway.”
First-time offenders face a Class A misdemeanor so that they may be jailed for up to 30 days and pay a fine of $300 to $525. A second conviction within 12 months could result in up to six months in jail and a $525 to $750 fine.
Given the current status of NYC jails, it’s highly unlikely someone found illegally racing would go to jail unless there’s another, the more severe crime involved. Drivers may see fines, but the amounts are a small fraction of what a street racer may spend on their car.
We Need to Curb Street Racing
Two recent state laws related to street racing have gotten mixed results. Neither tries to prevent or stop street racing directly. The “Fighting Urban Racing In Our Streets Act” or FURIOUS Act would allow city speed cameras to be on 24 hours, every day. They’re shut down on weekends and at night when racing takes place. That bill is in a state senate committee.
Gov. Hochul signed into law the SLEEP (Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution) Act in October, reports the Brooklyn Paper. It increases the fine for using an illegal muffler from $150 to $1,000. Street racers often use them, and their sound can make a headache of living by an illicit race strip.