Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the shutdowns cleared normally packed highways and streets of the usual business commuters, illegal drag racing has exploded in popularity around the country, with dangerous spikes reported from Georgia and New York to New Mexico and Oregon, reports the Associated Press. Fueled by TV shows and movies that glorify the practice, and an increase in free time to modify and show off their passion for fast cars, illegal street racers are now tying up traffic, contributing to noise pollution, wielding guns and littering, and, in the worst-case scenarios, getting themselves killed.
On the night of May 2, a 28-year-old woman was killed in Phoenix when a street racer crashed into her car while, in April, a mother in Denver was killed when a street racer broadsided her car. In New York City alone, authorities received more than 1,000 drag racing complaints over six months last year—a nearly five-fold increase over the same period in 2019. In response, police across the U.S. are stepping up enforcement and states are fighting back with new laws that mandate jail time for drag racing convictions, require forfeiture of vehicles, increase the overnight and weekend operation of speed cameras in illegal racing hotspots, utilize helicopters to track races, and increase state troopers jurisdiction to respond to incidents in cities. Meanwhile, states like Colorado are attempting to lure racers to safer and more legal environments like private racetracks and speedways where there is minimal risk of accidents, property damage, and death.