The Fast and the Furious movie franchise has achieved a status of popularity that I am sure far exceeds the expectations of everyone involved in the making of these films. The producers of these movies may have had an inkling that they would be doing a sequel, but I doubt it ever occurred to them that there would be seven of these films made over the course of 14 years with an eighth in the series set to be released in 2017.
Fast cars, competition, drama, excitement, attractive men and women – these movies definitely have something to offer a vastly diverse audience. There is, however, one common element in each of them, and that is the exhilaration brought on by speed. Of course, this franchise is not the first time there has been mass exposure to the concept of street racing. It has been a core theme in many Hollywood productions such as Grease, Death Race 2000, and Cannonball Run, among others.
Street racing is not a new phenomenon, by any stretch of the imagination; however, we do seem to hear about it much more frequently these days. It’s probably impossible to determine if this is due to it happening more frequently, if accidents that result from its practice are more widely reported, or if it has simply grown in popularity. Whatever the reason, street racing may be exhilarating for those who participate in it, but it can often have tragic consequences.
Sometimes these races are set up among friends or associates – a matter of meeting at a certain place and time where there will be light traffic and fewer cops – but sometimes there seems to be little concern about these matters and the street racing may be impromptu between drivers who don’t know each other. It can result from as little provocation as one driver revving his engine at a traffic light and some sense of ‘machismo’ kicks in. (Although women are involved in illegal street racing, the drivers at such events are usually male.) It would seem that such was the case when, on July 1, 2013, a West Delray mother of two was the apparent victim of a street race gone wrong because it is believed that the drivers did not previous know each other.
According to reports, the woman was pulling onto a roadway shortly before 9 a.m. when she struck the passenger door of one of the cars speeding past her while threading in and out of rush hour traffic. After the initial impact, the other driver who was racing then plowed into the driver’s side of the woman’s car, killing her instantly. It is estimated that the two drivers who were speeding were traveling at speeds of approximately 100 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Sadly, this type of tragedy is not an isolated incident. Another such incident occurred in Tamarac late last year in which a popular 20-year-old woman was killed when the car she was riding in hit a palm tree. According to one account, the car was racing a motorcycle when the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree. After examination of the car’s sensors, it is believed that the driver of the vehicle was speeding at 42 mph over the posted speed limit.
Generally, those involved in this type of activity tend to be young males, but as with everything in life, there are exceptions to that generalization. A 42-year-old man was arrested in Palm Beach County when law enforcement broke up a group of approximately 50 motorcyclists who were involved in racing. The 42-year-old is the only suspect that was unable to evade the officers. The charges he now faces are racing on a highway, reckless driving, and he wasn’t licensed to drive a motorcycle.
I have already mentioned the excitement that many may gain from street racing, but the costs can often be devastating. Sometimes it is the racers themselves who suffer the consequences of these actions, but all too often, the victims of street racing bear no culpability in what befalls them. In both of the heart-wrenching cases mentioned above, an innocent person lost her life. It is impossible to say if the second victim I mentioned was an active participant, but it seems clear that the first victim certainly had no awareness of what was taking place. She was, in fact, just on her way to work when calamity struck.
“All of our dreams and happiness now have been shattered,” the mother of this victim told a Palm Beach County circuit judge.
Even if it is not those who are speeding through our streets who are injured or killed, their lives are also devastated. In this case, the two men who were involved in this incident were only 22 and 23; one of whom was a college student. In the second incident, the driver was a 21-year-old Tamarac man who had plans to join the Marines. One of these promising young men pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and is now serving four years in jail. Even after his release, he will still have to face four years of probation. If he violates his probation, he could receive 15 years in prison.
The mother of the victim, however, stated, “Whether it is one day in prison or 50 years in prison, our daughter will never return, but a proper prison sentence may discourage similar driving by you some day, and/or another person, and thus save an innocent victim.”
The second driver is charged with reckless driving, vehicular homicide, manslaughter by culpable negligence, and unlawful speed, but the case against him is still pending. It is expected that he will stand trial later this year.
In cases such as these, those engaging in street racing which results in someone’s death can be charged with vehicular manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or both offenses, as well as other charges. These charges can be either first or second degree felonies, the consequences of which can be as severe as life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Yes, speeding can be exhilarating, but in addition to the macho attitude of many who engage in street racing, the enticement of this practice also stems from the inherent understanding that it is patently dangerous. Anyone who engages in street racing surely realizes the risk involved or the rush they get from doing so would not exist. This action is much more severe than going a just few miles over the speed limit because you are late for work. The ramifications, both legal and otherwise, are usually much greater than that of an ordinary speeding ticket.
Unfortunately, the choice to speed at whatever level can end in more than just a traffic ticket. Life-altering consequences are certain if an accident occurs. Lives are lost, the lives of victims’ families are forever changed, and the lives of the drivers are also irrevocably altered.