Atlanta City Council member aims to legitimize street racing, stunt driving
By Sean Keenan
Could regulating and monitoring the otherwise out-of-control practices of street racing and stunt driving transform them into safe, city-sanctioned events? That’s what Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown wants to find out.
Brown, who represents Council District 3, has called on the City of Atlanta’s attorneys to help him devise a way to legitimize the kind of behavior that many residents and businesses have long considered a nuisance and a public safety hazard.
Atlanta’s street races and stunt drivers, he wrote in an email to city executives, “are tax-paying residents who feel unheard when it comes to their desire to act on their passion and, for some, a hobby, in a safe environment without being forced onto the streets of Atlanta.”
In recent months, the city has attempted to crack down on the rash of unsafe car stunts and illegal car meets by fining or jailing people who participate. But that’s not how to solve the problem, Brown said in his email to city officials.
“The issuance of citations, fines and incarceration is not going to solve the problem, regardless of how many tickets are issued or folks placed in jail,” he said.
After conferring with organizers of these unsanctioned events, Brown compiled a list of recommendations that, he believes, could make drag racing and doing donuts safer for those behind the wheel, spectators and the city at large.
In short, he wants to find private property — large parking lots, ideally — where people can congregate “one day a week” to “hang out, show off their cars and do some mild racing,” including “donuts and light drifting.”
Brown’s proposal calls for organizers to obtain liability insurance, enlist off-duty police officers and require participants to sign a waiver “issued by either the lot owner [or] organizations coordinating the activities.”
Also: “They will leave silently after they finish”; “They will select a lot that is away from a community or neighborhood”; “No minor or anyone under the age of 18 will be allowed to be present”; and “If there are any deaths as the result of activities on the premises, the lot will be shut down immediately.”
That’s all much easier said than done, city lawyers told the councilman, noting his idea needs a closer look before anyone can consider legitimizing street racing and stunt driving in town.
“Even if on private property and all proposals were followed, the city would still likely be subject to extended responsibility to be on guard for illegal behavior at these events and potential liability, particularly if the scope of events require permitting,” city attorneys wrote in a memo to Brown obtained by SaportaReport.
They continued: “Due to the number of issues related to liability and potential extended costs, for example, for the city to assign officers to cover these events and/or establish a process for issuing permits for such events, there must be a very careful analysis of the best way to approach this type of solution.”
The attorneys also mentioned that state traffic laws and the city’s noise ordinance could be a stumbling block for Brown’s proposal.
“The city should not at this time consent to the terms proposed even if a suitable location were found and the property owner agreed accordingly,” the memo concludes.
Nevertheless, Brown told SaportaReport that he’s “trying to assist the street races in finding a private lot that they can utilize in moving this forward.”
But much of his proposal, it seems, demands some fine-tuning.
(Header image, via Sean Keenan: Edgewood Avenue is marked up by burnt rubber, and city leaders installed concrete barriers to prevent drivers from doing donuts.)