In the professional sport of drag racing, drivers wear protective clothing, lane barriers separate cars, and a chest-high wall at the edge of the track keeps fans from getting too close. Even under those controlled conditions, drag racing accidents sometimes occur. Without safety controls, drag racing is extremely dangerous.
Many people attempt to emulate professional drag racing, staging illegal races on city streets, often with the help of timekeepers, videographers, and lookouts who watch for police. Many of the participants in these races are young people and teenagers – people who don’t have a lot of driving experience. And crowds may number in the hundreds. When these drivers lose control of their cars, onlookers gathered close to the road are in grave danger. Sometimes, the victims of these car crashes are innocent bystanders who weren’t even aware of the illegal race.
According to South Carolina code Section 56-5-1590, it’s illegal to engage in or assist street racing, and drivers convicted of unlawful racing could spend up to six months in jail and lose their driver’s license for one year. Despite knowing there are penalties – and knowing that what they’re doing is dangerous – people continue organizing and participating in street racing.
A Widespread Problem
Street racing isn’t a new problem, but it has grown dramatically in recent years. A common theory is that street racers may be inspired by movies like Fast & Furious that feature high-speed hot rods. In 2001, the year the first Fast & Furious film debuted, 135 fatal crashes were linked to street racing, compared to 72 such crashes in the previous year.
In 2015, several teens lost their lives in drag racing accidents, and others faced criminal charges associated with street racing:
- In California, a 16-year-old driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter, for causing a late-afternoon crash that killed another motorist.
- In Texas, a 17-year-old driver struck a parked car, pushing it into a 15-year-old-bystander and killing him.
- In Oregon, a 17-year-old driver pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter for causing a crash on a residential street, killing a man who was standing by his mailbox.
It’s not just teenagers who are engaging in illegal street racing. In July 2015, about 30 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina, a 37-year-old man lost control of his Mustang during a street race and crashed into a group of spectators. Four people died and three others suffered serious injuries
Every year, Mustang drivers and fans flock to Myrtle Beach for Mustang Week. In 2015, the week’s final Cruise-In hosted more than 10,500 people and more than 3,000 Mustangs. By and large, attendees are well behaved, but a few irresponsible drivers have tarnished the reputation of this annual event.
Video from 2014’s event shows Mustang drivers on city streets doing illegal “burnouts” or peel-outs – the act of revving a car’s engine so the tires are spinning rapidly while at a stop. A burnout creates a lot of smoke and causes a car to become unstable, often resulting in the car’s fishtailing and moving in unpredictable directions.
Modern muscle cars are capable of reaching unprecedented speeds — and quickly. That’s one reason why many state police forces have begun using Mustangs and other high-performance cars to patrol highways. Police, however, go through driving safety courses and know how to handle their cars at unusually high speeds, unlike most civilian drivers.
The 2013 Shelby GT500 was the fastest-accelerating Mustang ever, capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of around 200 mph. In the wrong hands, it’s a dangerous machine. And some new Mustangs have features that make unsafe behavior easier.
Ford introduced the Line Lock feature for its 2015 Mustangs, which allows drivers to push a dashboard button to engage the front brakes while allowing the rear tires to spin, making burnouts even easier. It’s a feature that Australia deemed illegal, so Mustangs sold there cannot be equipped with Line Lock.
In the U.S., where illegal drag racing has become such a pervasive problem, a feature that helps drivers peel-out seems to be counter to public safety concerns.
Advocates for Drag Racing Accident Victims
If a reckless driver has injured you or someone in your family, you need an advocate from The Louthian Law Firm who will stand up for your rights and work diligently to hold responsible parties accountable. Find out what we can do for you. Request your no-obligation consultation by calling 803-592-6231 or filling out our online contact form.