LA wants to expand seizure of "Street Racing" cars after deadly accident


Prologue: I, in no way endorse or support street racing or illegal activity, I, unlike the limp wristed politicians, do however understand that it has and always will be a small part of automotive culture. If you feel the need to go racing...please go to a track and do it responsibly. 
This is an opinion piece written with a little tongue-in-cheek, just remember "Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!"  Michael Satterfield
For more NEWS on this story visit ABC 7.

With the recent death of two young men at a local Street Race here in Southern California, the media and local political hacks have seized the moment to "save the children."  On television and radio reports every city councilmen, police chief, and local state assemblymen are demanding a "crackdown" on illegal street racing. Already we are hearing plans to start impounding "street racing vehicles" and a cry from the local police that "if we only had more funding" they could stop street racing before it kills every child in if it is an epidemic that can only be stopped by padding the CalPERS retirement fund.

The Los Angeles City Council is already looking at a plan to increase penalties for street racing and hit-and-run crashes. The plan proposed by Councilman Mitch Englander would give the police the power seize and either sell or destroy vehicles involved in street racing activities and other hit and run accidents. The proposal came as quick as his knee could jerk and he could find a microphone or camera to be in front of.

Englander told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO this move is in response to the "car culture" on social media that seems to value hot rods over human life.

Councilman Mitch Englander wants your car
“They post on their websites that, ‘Oh this poor Mustang, look what happened to this Mustang’,” said Englander. “Two people died, somebody was seriously injured, and so, yeah, we’re gonna hit ‘em where it hurts."

It seems that Englander does not understand that the spectators were not forced to be there, sad that they are dead? ...yes, but are they also responsible? Absolutely, it is not like they were innocent bystanders. They knew what was happening at the race and now Englander is cashing in on their family tragedy for some cheap political cachet and a chance to enhance city revenue by auctioning off seized vehicles. This from the same city that flouts state law by handing the keys back to unlicensed drivers instead of impounding their car if they happen to be an illegal immigrant.

By the way, Mitch does not ever mention how many people really die every year while street racing... just that it is an epidemic...wonder why? In what is described by police as a massive underground network that fueled by drugs, crime, sexy movies, and twitter it must be thousands per-year...tens of thousands... maybe more killed by sweet lady speed on the streets of America. Thankfully, it is not. In fact based on the numbers I looked up from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) it does not even register as half of one percent of all automotive deaths annually. Hummm... "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?" you scream while tears stream down your cheeks... Don't worry the children will be ok.

From 2001 to 2008 (the studies with the most recent data) according to the NHTSA study, about 130 people per year were killed in "street racing" incidents nationally (that means in the whole USA), while you have 42,000 on average being killed per year in just run of the mill car accidents. It works out that only 0.3% of all automotive accident related deaths nationwide are caused by street racing. To give you an idea if all 130 people on average per year were just from the state of California that is only 0.00040625% of the population of the state.

Now compare this to the nearly 31% of automotive deaths caused by Drunk Driving and you start to wonder what all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth is about... if it is truly about "saving lives" why is it that Englander is not proposing sezing and destroying or selling the cars of anyone caught driving under the influence? That would prevent a big chunk of the 31% of the total fatalities currently caused by drunk drivers, while a total crackdown on street racing would have no appreciable effect.

Now I can hear it already, the standard cry of "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN??" and "IF IT SAVES JUST ONE LIFE!" Yeah...I get it for those families this is a profound, personal, life changing event... but that is anecdotal evidence at best and not worthy of shaping public policy. The cases where we end up with laws fueld by one person(s) passions generally are invasive, overreaching, and ineffective.

We have watched police agencies and political class here in California increase in their animosity towards the car culture here in California. From the CHP's two month undercover investigation into canyon racers (here) to the raid at the Art's Burger Meet (here) the definition of what is "street racing activity" is getting pretty wide.

As a car enthusiast who is part of the community, when politicians start wanting to expand the powers of the police to seize vehicles I start to get worried. The New York Times exposed some "special training" that police officers across the country have been getting. In one seminar, captured on video, Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., described how officers in his jurisdiction could not wait to seize one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar, and other departments were found to have wish lists of cars officers or their family members wanted. Connnelly said "Don’t bother with jewelry and computers, (but) do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars...especially nice cars." Read the whole story on that here.

We must understand that this has nothing to do with saving a life, it has everything to do with giving the police expanded reasons to seize cars and giving the politicians a talking point for some TV and Radio time. Sadly I could not find any statistics on how many deadly accidents were caused by LA's decrepit roads and aging infrastructure...something the LA City Council should be spending time on.

But if you happen to be a canyon driver, street racer, or even just an owner of a modified car... be looking over your shoulder, state and local law enforcement are gunning for the automotive enthusiast...yet again.