Racing cars has a dark history; from the times where booze was outlawed, the 1920s and early 1930s was a time where big names like Al Capone would provide affordable and illegal beverages to the United States. One of the answers to evading law enforcement was to spend small fortunes in order to modify the speed, handling, and overall performance of cars, in order to avoid getting caught and to supply alcoholic goods around the country. While it may be hard to believe, it is true that illegal smuggling or ‘bootlegging’ of booze would be the earliest ancestor of the modern-day racing. Even though Prohibition lasted for a little over a decade, the drive to enhance the performance of our vehicles never ceased, and would give birth to organizations such as the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Formula 1 racing, and countless other professional-level motorsports. While no one would be arrested for consuming or purchasing booze nowadays, modern civilization is plagued with issues that come from the car culture. Every day is the same story; amateur racers take the streets, and emergency responders arrive on scene to twisted and burning metal, and casualties. It’s an epidemic that’s swept the world for almost a century. While it provides a valuable source of entertainment on the legal side, there are those who partake in underground events, and many times leading to the loss of life or property. Many people believe street racing to only potentially bring harm to themselves or any of the drivers, but unfortunately, onlookers, uninvolved pedestrians and drivers, buildings, and other property have been maimed, injured, or killed.
The car scene is heavy with enthusiasts all over the world, with loyalties lying with any manufacturing company you can think of. The community is one that can be wholesome for friends and family of all ages, bringing people of all ages, races, nationalities, and hobbies together to give appreciation to one another’s priceless possessions. However, where there are modified cars, there are many who can’t resist showing off to everyone else their exhaust notes, how much smoke their tires can bellow, and seek those who would fall for the flexing claim of whose car is faster. Just like in any culture, especially with hobbies involving a lot of cash, drugs and alcohol seem to be a commonly mixed in with the fray, bringing a whole plethora of issues that span in the underground racing communities all over the world. Most states have stepped up their game within law enforcement to crack down on racing. California has become an example to the rest of the country on how much communities here dislike street racing, and the stigma of those with anything other-than-normal are at an all-time-high, especially with most states already containing strict emissions laws that prevent many from being able to modify their vehicle in many ways, in order to prevent air pollution and to discourage people from street racing.
Arguably one of the bigger reasons street racing seems to be a big issue would also be due to the lacking choices in venue for the average amateur driver, as well as the strict rules put in place for driver safety, such as spending upwards to a couple thousand dollars for a roll cage, safety helmet, safety harnesses, and obviously modifications to the suspension. A lot of the issues that would be harder to crack down on altogether and fix would be the stimulation many amateur racers may receive from high-risk activity and gambling. One factor that is seen in street racing is driver age. A lot of the younger and less experienced drivers tend to fall into the temptation of wanting to test the capabilities of their vehicle, and likely do not understand the what kind of skill goes into performing certain maneuvers, especially if their vehicle was not made for the purpose of racing.
Unfortunately, there really is no single answer on how we can stop people from street racing, aside from increased vigilance of law enforcement, as well as education on why it’s not safe and immoral. In regards to law enforcement, street racing in any state could yield severe punishment, such as having your vehicle impounded, apprehension, heavy fines, as well as being convicted and sent to prison. Police in California have even gone as far as crushing your vehicle if you were arrested for street racing. While many saw this as a simple scare tactic, many heartbroken owners who were charged with street racing watched their hard work and money spent get crushed in moments. All we can do to prevent organized street racing events is anonymous reporting, vigilance in our law enforcement, and keeping our communities proactive. One of the few things that can be done to prevent unnecessary deaths is to also teach new and inexperienced drivers the importance of respect for the vehicle and other motorists, as well as the consequences of dangerous driving. In the past five years, cars have entered a new era of performance. The Ford Mustang, for example, has been the center of ridicule for their infamous loss of control, having countless videos of accidents involving the legendary Pony Car. While much blame would be placed on Ford for a flawed design, it isn’t out of the ordinary for a young and inexperienced driver to get a hold of one for much less than another sports car with similar performance, resulting in an implied, limitless potential. Anyone would be excited to driving and showing off their new vehicle, regardless of model, but it is imperative to teach younger drivers to understand that what they are controlling is something that can make life easy, but also end it.
Knight S, Cook LJ, Olsen LM. The Fast and the Fatal: Street Racing Fatal Crashes in the United States. Injury Prevention. Print. 2004.
This article goes in-depth with the characteristics with accidents involving street racing. It points out the statistics about why these accidents occur, and the attitudes of those who partake in these events. Key points are brought up, such as impaired driving, as well as potential solutions to avoiding and preventing needless accidents resulting from street racing.
Queally J and Santa Cruz N. Out of Control. LA Times. Article. 2018. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-street-racing/
Street racing is a huge issue in Southern California. The danger doesn’t just fall on the driver, but those who are unfortunate enough to also be in the passengers’ seats and uninvolved motorists and pedestrians. Many Californians and visitors, including myself, are often seen by city police and highway patrol as trouble-makers, due to the characteristics of the vehicles we might drive, but due to the severity of these events, it is not out of the norm to be worried about our vehicles, even when we’re obeying traffic laws.
Blackmon, F. Information On Street Racing. ItStillRuns. Article. (Date N/A). https://itstillruns.com/information-street-racing-5167187.html
This article explains the history of racing, as well as known hotspots throughout the world. It gives insight on rules, how they are organized, the (illegal) income made through gambling as a driver or spectator, and how they can detect and avoid police intervention. Popularity of these events are also seen to be glorified by pop culture.
Stop Street Racing. New Speed LLC. Website. 2008-2014 http://stop-street-racing.org/index.htm
The website provides statistics and awareness to the dangers of street racing, driving while intoxicated, and distracted driving. They provide events that are defined within the realms of street racing, and drive a message to others that racing is not an issue, so long as it’s on a track that is purposed for racing.
Bedworth M. Modifying Cars, Why Do You Do It? Drive Tribe. Article. 2017. https://drivetribe.com/p/modifying-cars-why-do-you-do-it-UXUMVOg7SuCzVWJqzn_qHw?iid=G1G3kz7DTV-DtocJBQ0k5w
The culture of the car scene is one that brings people of all communities, nationalities, and brand loyalties together as friends and/or competitors. While having a newer vehicle that was already built for racing right off the assembly line is fun to drive, the passion of envisioning and making your modification ideas a reality are things that give purpose, fulfillment, and passion to vehicle enthusiasts all over the world.