By now, you have likely heard about the street racers who took over multiple intersections in Austin recently, leading to rioting, at least one injured police officer, damaged police vehicles, and increased 911 wait times. Viral videos shared on social media depict a lawless scene of rioters throwing glass bottles at police, shooting off fireworks near the crowd of onlookers, and a truck doing donuts before exploding and setting spectators on fire. While not all types of street racing end in this chaos all forms encourage risky driving behavior. It’s important to talk about not only the extremes of street racing but also why all forms of illegal racing are dangerous especially for new drivers.
What Is Street Racing?
Street racing is when cars race each other at high speeds – either on streets or in parking lots. The Austin street races that made national news recently might be more accurately described as “takeovers” or “sideshows.” In a takeover, cars block off an intersection in order to do stunts, such as donuts. A takeover (aka sideshow) is a kind of flash mob, but not the kind that results in choreographed singing and dancing. Takeovers often result in violence and rioting.
Takeovers are organized by groups via social media and are planned weeks in advance. The event in Austin was organized by people from all over Texas who used Instagram to communicate with each other and spread the word about their planned takeover.
Are Takeovers a New Thing?
Illegal street racing and takeovers have been around for decades, but occurrences of street takeovers started increasing in cities across America during the pandemic. Despite there being fewer drivers on the road, risky driving and driving fatalities actually increased during lockdown. A decrease in traffic during the pandemic has been correlated with an overall increase in risky driving behavior, including street races and takeovers.
The growing popularity of takeovers is also due to the videos posted by participants and spectators. These viral videos glorify reckless driving and draw crowds to future takeovers.
What Makes Street Racing So Dangerous?
Street racing may seem like a harmless show put on by daredevil drivers to entertain spectators, but the reality is that street racing is dangerous, and even deadly, for drivers, bystanders, and the police.
Guns and drugs are often part of the chaotic scene. The Los Angeles Times reported in August 2022 that at least six people had died during or near street takeovers in the previous six months. Four of the six had been shot, and two were hit by cars.
Previous street races in Austin have also resulted in violence. The Austin American Statesman reported that a 2020 shooting was connected to an illegal street race, and another man was beaten and had his car stolen at an Austin street race that same year.
Addressing the Problem of Street Racing with Driver Education
The exciting videos of cars racing and doing stunts on social media make it look fun to be part of the action. After all, movies and video games make fast driving and stunts seem glamorous and free from consequences.
As driving education experts, we at Aceable are concerned about the growing popularity of street racing and takeovers. We believe that if our students know about the consequences and dangers of street racing, they will be equipped to make better choices. That’s why we are committed to teaching about the risks of participating in or spectating in these kinds of activities activities.
Here’s what our teen driving course has to say about street racing:
With the glamorization of speed in movies, television shows, and video games, street racing has become a serious traffic safety issue throughout the U.S. Unskilled drivers race at speeds that can exceed 100 miles per hour, often on city streets. Because these “racers” are not trained to handle their vehicles at such speeds, racing becomes a hazard to drivers and spectators alike.
Our course also emphasizes the consequences associated with street racing and reckless driving, explaining that in Texas, street racers could have their vehicle confiscated, be fined thousands of dollars, and be put in jail for a year. Repeat offenders could be charged with a second-degree felony, which could result in imprisonment for up to 20 years. Additionally, spectators can also be fined up to $500 and have their vehicles towed.
We want our students to understand that when it comes to street racing, the dangers and consequences are real and could even involve jail, injury, or death.
Caution, Danger Ahead
We remember what it’s like to be a teen. We know you may not plan to race someone on the highway or be part of a rioting crowd at a takeover.
But sometimes things just happen. You may just be sitting at a red light minding your own business when the car next to you revs its engine, daring you to race. Or maybe a friend wants you to go with them to a sideshow they heard about on social media. You are faced with a choice. Now that you know the facts, we hope the choice will be a little easier for you. Street racing may look cool in viral videos, but in real life, you are greatly increasing your chances of getting seriously injured or even killed.
We urge you to take your safety seriously. The fact is street racing is dangerous, especially for new drivers. Things can literally spin out of control very quickly, and if something goes wrong, the consequences are just too serious.
Ready to be awesome at driving? Check out our fun and engaging driver’s ed course.