For many, driving is a simple necessity, a way to get to and from the places we need to go. For others, driving is a love affair, one that is often focused on the power and speed of a well-constructed engine. Most enthusiasts enjoy this passion in a productive manner. Some turn to more dangerous pursuits. Street racing is a risky pastime, one that threatens those who take part, as well as uninvolved bystanders. It is a threat that is of grave concern to our Panama City car accident law firm.
Street racing accidents have made headlines on both the local and national level in recent months. Last Sunday, as reported by The News Herald, a truck collided with a utility pole on Middle Beach Road in Panama City Beach near the intersection with Alf Coleman. Witnesses told police that the truck had been racing another vehicle when the driver lost control. Police arrested the driver on reckless driving charges.
While no injuries were reported in Sunday's incident, other recent street racing stories have had much more tragic results. According to an ABC affiliate, authorities suspect street racing led to a fiery crash that claimed the life of an uninvolved driver and damaged at least 8 vehicles in South Los Angeles on April 30. Another ABC outlet covered an accident that claimed the life of a baby and a teen on a highway outside of Atlanta. Officials believe the baby's mother was racing when she lost control and hit a guardrail before colliding with another vehicle, killing her 7-month-old child and a 19-year-old passenger.
It is difficult to pinpoint the number of accidents and fatalities that are tied to street racing. A report published in USA Today last fall notes that this is partly due to changes in the way such accidents are tracked. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 153 people died in 122 racing-related crashes nationwide from 2001 to 2010. However, this statistic only includes incidents in which police charged at least one driver with illegal racing. The agency previously preferred a broader definition, including all crashes where investigators found that racing was involved. Using this definition, there were 1,047 racing deaths in the 2001 to 2008 period.
A study published in 2004 in Injury Prevention reviewed fatal street racing accidents from 1998 to 2001 ("The fast and the fatal: street racing fatal crashes in the United States"). While fatal crashes are generally spread fairly evenly throughout the day, the authors found that fatal street racing accidents were clustered in the late evening or early morning hours. Compared to other fatal accidents, street racing deaths were 5 times more likely to have occurred in urban areas. Notably, deadly street racing incidents were less likely to involve roads with a speed limit over 65mph when compared to other fatal accidents, but they were 6 times more likely to have actually involved speeds over 65mph. Drivers involved in street racing deaths were more likely to be males and teenagers.
The authors of the Injury Prevention study note that street racing is a factor in only a small percentage of traffic deaths (they did not study injury statistics). While this may be true, it does not change the fact that street racing is dangerous and deadly. It also appears to be a threat on the rise. Street racing deaths also carry an extra element of tragedy because they are the result of unnecessary risk. Accidents happen on the road, but it is hard to categorize street racing deaths as pure accidents when they stem from a blatant disregard for safety.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a Panama City street racing accident, please call. Wes Pittman is an experienced Panama City injury attorney and, along with his legal team, he can help the victims of street racing recover the monetary compensation that is essential to moving forward.