Street racing gets a bad rap in the media, but this time it’s actually deserved. Sure, in a country of roughly 315 million people, where 32,000 people were killed in traffic accidents, only a tiny fraction of those involved street racing. While that’s statistically a tiny fraction of the population — just a few more than die from being hit by lightning each year – but that’s little consolation to the thousands of grieving friends and family.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that approximately 140 people died each year from street racing accidents in the first decade of this century. That is an increase of almost 50% compared to the 1990’s average. With an increased population, and vehicles becoming much more powerful over the last 30 years, street racing deaths are likely to continue their slow climb.
“Speed contest” or “excessive acceleration” is what is usually written on traffic citations given to street racers. Excessive acceleration generally is not too bad; a couple of points and a few hundred dollar fine. Engaging in a speed contest is more serious, usually 5 points on a license and fines can be in the four figure range. Depending on the location and the laws in place, the vehicle can be impounded at the owner’s expense while he spends a night in jail.
Of course the worst of it is the injured drivers, occupants, or bystanders of this stupidity. While deaths averaged 140 a year, injuries are six times higher. Street racing usually takes place on busy urban streets according to the NHTSA, and this crowded, unpredictable environment means there will be a lot of wrecks. Other drivers, their passengers, and pedestrians on the street are all at threat from young jabronis in their overdriven Civics.
And the consequences don’t end with other pedestrians and drivers or a monetary loss. In 2007, California tried to make an example of some drivers charged with street racing. The modified cars were crushed and recycled, while the owners watched. While it is unclear if this action had any effect on the amount of street racing, it did remove at least five vehicles. Permanently.
Finally, consider the results of a study published by the American Public Health Association. In it, the report described the average street racer as a male teenager with limited driving experience or skill, and usually penalty points on their license and a history of previous accidents. Not exactly the crowd to admire. This study also provided surveys where the majority of high school males said they had street raced in the past year. Brilliant.
There are answers to the problem, and even some partial solutions. The public has access to professional drag strips during “test and tune” days. The fees are cheap, generally around $15, and drivers can run their vehicle down the properly prepared and equipped strip as many times as they can before closing. The Sports Car Club of America (which is open to all cars) offers autocross events in pretty much every small-ish or larger city in the country. Autocross is cheap, about $20, and is open to novices in factory condition cars. The events run most of the day, and professionals are always willing to offer advice and even ride along with you as a coach. Autocross is exciting, and an excellent way to quickly improve driving skills.
The answer is simple: keep it on the track.