Despite its glorification in Hollywood films such as the “Fast and the Furious” series and “Need for Speed,” street racing (or drag racing) has been blamed for causing many accidents — and with good reason. Drivers often lose control of their vehicles due to high racing speeds, resulting in injuries and fatalities to drivers, passengers, or bystanders.
Street racing generally refers to any contest or exhibition of speed between two or more vehicles on any street or roadway and is illegal in most states, including California. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Office of Traffic Safety, hundreds of citations are issued each year for illegal speed racing. Since 2006, California has allowed prosecutors to charge drivers who engage in reckless driving or speed contests that injure another person with a felony. Drivers could also be sentenced to six months in state prison and fined up to $1,000. Prior to that time, drivers could only be charged with a misdemeanor and thus faced shorter prison stints (if they faced any at all).
Despite potential penalties, there is a strong racing culture in California. Indeed, Southern California is considered the birthplace of North American drag racing. Races can be spontaneous or well-planned. To plan events, drivers use two-way radios and police scanners to mark locations of police hot spots. Drivers also form teams and participate in street racing together. These events can become deadly.
On a recent Friday night in March, a Beverly Hills teenager was racing a friend down a main street, lost control of his Mercedes and crashed into a tree, which burst into flames. He and his friend survived, and fortunately no pedestrians or passengers were hurt. However, just a month earlier, in Chatsworth, two street racers plowed into a crowd of spectators, killing two men.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, anyone who engages, aids, or participates in a speed contest violates the law. Moreover, anyone who is present at an illegal speed contest or location (such as public street or highway or private property) where preparations are being made for such activities, for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching, or witnessing the event as it develops, could be cited.
Other legal concerns associated with street racing include trespassing on private property and carjackings. Property damage can also be a concern if cars crash after the races. If you or your property has been injured due to street racing and the racers have been cited criminally, you may be able to sue the racers for damages in civil court.
For more information on how to recover financially if you or a loved one has been injured by illegal street racers in the San Fernando Valley, contact experienced personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg today.