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Crushing cars not the answer against racers

Published June 23, 2007


So the attorney general wants to crush "juiced up" cars before they even hit the street to race. Who does he think he's kidding?

"Just on the balance of probabilities if we can establish that a car is being used for the unlawful purpose of street racing, we will seize it and you will never see it again," said Michael Bryant this week.

"We will crush your car; we will crush the parts."

There's nothing wrong with crushing street-racers' cars, just as the book should be thrown at the racers – with jail time and huge fines and public shame. No problem there.

But there are too many stories of young kids getting pulled over in customized cars and charged with possessing accessories that the law is vague about. Most cops don't know the difference between nitrous and noxious, and they're quick to write tickets and let the judge sort it out.

So when somebody gets pulled over in a trick Civic for just driving along the Gardiner with a lopsided licence plate, and the cop determines that the car is kitted out for racing when in fact it's just on its way to an organized Solo 1 event in a Brampton car park, or a Run What Ya Brung day at Cayuga, what then?

I'll tell you what then: The kid with enough money for a good lawyer gets the car back; the kid with just enough to invest in something that stands out loses everything.

Nobody was saying this week what would be the deciding factor for determining that a car is obviously intended for street racing, and I can't imagine any case that should stand up in court.

All the lawyer for a real street racer needs to do is wave a copy of his client's legal racing licence, even if it hasn't been used, and the judge would have to return the car.

And wouldn't that make a good photo as the suspect drives it away from the courthouse?

The irony is that the judge's BMW and the lawyer's Mercedes are probably far more powerful than any Impreza with cut springs, or some middle-aged guy's aftermarket turbo on a Miata.

No, there are too many variables for such blather to be enforceable. It sounds good, but unless the province intends to ban all legal track racing, it's just impractical and unfair. Hardcore racers will just invest in Porsches that come already equipped.

After all, the California racer in the photo above that accompanies this column sighed heavily as he watched his illegally modified Honda Civic get crushed by the cops near Los Angeles this week.

"It will never go away," Daniel Maldonado told the Associated Press. "If it's in your heart, you will continue to do it until you can't anymore."

So what's to be done?

I wrote a column in this newspaper on Thursday (which can be read at in which I dismissed most of the well-intended suggestions for dealing with street racing. I even came out in favour of photo radar, sort-of, which is surprising since my wife's $43 speeding ticket in 1990 for 112 km/h in a 100 km/h limit still stings. It won't affect street racing, though.

My conclusion was that the only real and lasting solution for the scourge of street racing is to make it as socially unacceptable as drunk driving and seatbelt ignorance. Politicians and the media can play a large role in this by publicizing the horrible effects of its consequences. As well, responsible media should refuse to carry advertising that condones irresponsible behaviour.

We've all seen them selling the image: The TV ad that shows a Volkswagen driver consoling a BMW driver for just losing an acceleration contest; the Mini billboard that states "Fear Speed Traps"; the TV ad that shows a Kawasaki motorcycle in a constant blur and streak while declaring in a caption that "No speed limits were exceeded in the making of this advertisement." We're not that stupid.

It will probably take a generation to effect this change in attitude, so what to do until then?

It is possible to protect yourself on the road from racing idiots, and fools who don't understand that there's a time and a place for speed.

Any instructor will tell you what to do when you first learn the considerable skill of driving – the quickly forgotten secret is to stay alert and aware of everything else on the road.

Watch your mirrors. Don't chat on the phone. Both hands on the wheel. Don't obscure your windshield with dangling CDs. Stay to the right on multi-lane highways.

And for God's sake, keep the dog in the back seat on a restraint, not sitting on your lap with its head out the window. I've seen three of them in the last week alone.

These little things can save your life, if you treat driving as a skill and not as a chore or – worse – a casual recreation or thoughtless task.

After all, street racing is too much of an adrenaline rush and illicit allure for its adherents to go away overnight.

So as long as our politicians continue to bluster and puff themselves up with unenforcable bravado, it's down to each of us to make a difference instead. And we can.