For many people, the idea of street racing creates bad vibes especially if it’s an illegal event. As an event, it precedes cars by several centuries as there were many illegal horse races and chariot races on the roads before the invention of the motor car.
The heyday for street racing was in the 1960s with a race that should have taken place at Woodward Avenue Drag Strip in Detroit, Michigan. However, because the racecourse was often unavailable the organizers took it to public roads instead. This was only the beginning of their problems.
The consensus among street race organizers is that it’s best to avoid the busier areas of the city and suburbs. This might have to do with safety or it possibly could have something to do with not getting caught!
Apart from that, there seems to be a whole spectrum of how an event can be held. Some are almost spontaneous; others are planned precisely over several months-it all depends on who the organizers are.
However, it comes together and despite the best planning things can still go wrong. In an event in Southern California in 2018, several bystanders were killed as well as a number of the drivers. One of those killed was to a nineteen-year-old returning from Disneyland.
As for the money aspect, the amount of money being bet on these events is staggering. It’s a ready-made audience of gamblers.
As well as racing another activity bet on is the “side-show” or “takeover,” which refers to a crowd of cars associated with the organizers who will block a junction just ahead of the racers coming through. As the racing cars need to get as close to each other as they can, crashes often occur. Side bets get placed on that as well. Basically when it comes to street racing “High Stakes” is measured in peoples’ lives.
Law Enforcement Response
The police are trying to fix the problem using a special task force but they face challenges including that they are likely to suffer assault while physically attempting to break up events. Even when they do raid a race they may find the ringleaders are elsewhere, remember that it is a virtual event too. The task force must look at the big picture.
With modern social media and the ability to generate flash mobs many, it can tough for police to prevent a race. Organizers have plenty of incentive to keep it up too, because there’s a lot of money in it, as we’ll return to in a moment.
Race organizers sometimes move to a whole new area where police haven’t had a chance to prepare. An event in Sweden was covered by filmmaker Stephanie Benini who used a reality TV style way of broadcasting to focus on the event itself. The video shows a number of police cars at the scene. The whole thing lasted nine hours, between 11pm and 8am and police weren’t able to shut it down.
If racing weren’t dangerous enough inherently, experts viewing the movie footage have observed some of the cars have been massively upgraded. One Volvo, for example, has rear tires in the film that don’t match any Volvo being sold on forecourts. Maybe improper customization will play a part in future street races and future race accidents.
Even though it is an illegal event the organizers tried to be as sensible as they could be, closing down roads for the racers. But as stated above, the danger aspect cannot be removed completely.
As an interesting side note, racing returned to Woodward in 2018. Here’s a story on the topic.