Auto racing is a multibillion dollar industry involving a bevy of professionals ensuring a certain level of safety. Street racing is a crime involving little or no regard for safety and can put participants on the wrong side of the law in several ways.
“Street racing is against the law, period,” said Jesse Roybal, a public information officer for the Metropolitan Police Department. “It can violate multiple laws. There’s not just laws against racing, but you could be cited for speeding, aggressive driving, reckless driving and a number of other violations. More importantly, when you’re driving at excessive speeds, you’re putting other people’s lives at risk — not just your own.”
Metro doesn’t keep statistics on street racing. Often, police have a situation that involves speeding or an accident that could have been related to a race, but there are no known witnesses. It is an issue for which police patrol the community, particularly when they are aware of an area that has become a street-racing hot spot.
“It can be any good stretch of road with low traffic,” Roybal said. “Not all street racing happens in the middle of the night. If a street has low traffic at 7 p.m., that could be when it’s used for racing.”
The risk to fellow drivers and pedestrians can be greater in the valley because of the 24-hour nature of the town.
“We have people coming and going to work 24 hours a day,” Roybal said. “It’s not just people who are racing who are using the street. The people on the roads at 2 in the morning aren’t bad people. It’s normal, everyday people; it’s everyone.”
Roybal said speed limits are set for a number of factors that might not be apparent to the general public, such as proximity of school zones, hidden crosswalks, blind corners, shopping areas and other reasons.
“Have some respect for your fellow community members,” Roybal said. “If you’re speeding, and you recognize a threat, now you’ve driven farther than you can logically make that decision to apply brakes or a steering maneuver.”
Roybal recommends safe and legal drag races, such as Midnight Mayhem at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. North. The event is meant to provide a safe alternative to illegal street racing. The next one is set from 6 to 11:30 p.m. April 3.
“We have 12 to 15 events each year,” said Jeff Motley, spokesman for the facility. “We’ve had as many as 400 or 500 cars and a couple of thousand spectators out here. It all depends on the time of year and the weather.”
The races are set up on the speedway’s drag strip. Drivers and vehicles are paired up and race down the quarter-mile track. Safety crews are on hand, and the same safety built into the track for dragsters is available for the street vehicles.
After the finish line, there is a long, uphill stretch for vehicles to slow down. Motley said no racer has had to make use of the sand pit at the end of the track, designed to stop dragsters who are unable to slow down in time.
“I’m sure we’ve all been driving down the road and had someone go past us a lot faster than they should,” Motley said. “This is the place you can drive as fast as your car can go without putting the public at risk.”
Illegal street races are often over quickly. Anyone spotting a street race is encouraged to call the police using the nonemergency number 311.
“Even if the racers are gone, it helps officers determine if that area might be becoming a particular place for street racing,” Roybal said. “If we know where it’s happening, we can patrol for that activity and curb it.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.