A designated area for Atlanta street racing? Maybe.
Screenshot from a video of a car doing a burnout on I-285 posted in March. Warning: Language may not be suitable for all audiences. Credit: GAFollowers
By Maggie Lee
While Atlanta street racers burn up the city’s semi-empty roads, doing stunts for crowds of hundreds, the mayor’s considering a designating a racing spot instead.
One recommendation Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she’s heard from Bloomberg Philanthropies (and one of her sons) is to consider a designated space for street racing in the city.
“That’s something we will explore and keep you posted, but meanwhile we will continue to monitor those [racing] hot spots in the city,” Bottoms told Atlanta City Council at a Thursday briefing.
State law bans street racing. And the city is sometimes liable for injuries on city property.
Mayor Bottoms “has charged her senior leadership to examine the facts, collect best practices and lessons learned from other cities and put a plan in place to address these gatherings,” wrote a spokesman after Bottoms’ briefing.
Northwest Atlanta District 9 City Councilman Dustin Hillis has his own proposal: he wants police to be able to go after event organizers and spectators. Drivers can already face charges like reckless driving.
Legislation he’ll introduce Monday will propose fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail for people watching or organizing street racing events. He says the point is to stop the events before they start.
Hillis said he’d have to do some more research on designating an area for races, but that he doesn’t think his idea and the mayor’s idea are mutually exclusive.
Hillis said some groups of car enthusiasts just want to have informal “car show”-type events and aren’t trying to do something like burn up a $4,000 set of tires.
“But then from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from people that are in these groups is: designated area or not, they’re not gong to take advantage of that,” Hillis said. “That’s part of the thrill, of knowing you’re shutting down a state highway or the interstate and coming within inches of being hit by a car doing a doughnut.”
Maybe it’s no coincidence that by profession, Hillis is a nurse. He’s seen what crashes can do.
It’s those people who would seek danger on the streets, performing for a close crowd, that he says make his ordinance necessary.
Last week, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said to Council that her department had not been ready for the uptick in racing that’s come with COVID-19.
APD spokesman Carlos Campos said the department is taking racing seriously.
“It’s reckless, lawless and has the potential to get someone hurt,” he said via e-mail.
“I think it’s important the public understand that we want to address this issue in a way that doesn’t result in innocent people getting hurt – we are not going to pursue these individuals in high-speed chases,” Campos said. “But we will identify them and hold them accountable for these antics.”
Chief Shields elaborated in an interview with Fox 5. No, high-speed chases aren’t the answer. She said that the only way to get people to sit up and pay attention is to impound their cars and ideally, put them in jail.