Just two months ago, the idea of anyone being able to freely zip by the intersection of Figueroa and Olympic seemed like a joke. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home order, Los Angeles streets and highways have become largely deserted. The city has seen such a drastic drop in traffic that even the smog has cleared out, making LA the city with the cleanest air of any other major city in the world.
However, an unexpected trend that has arised from these deserted roadways throughout, not only Los Angeles, but California as a whole, is drag races. Street racing is a type of automobile racing in which racers compete to cross a set finish line first that takes place on public roads and is illegal.
An investigation conducted by the LA Times found 179 people died in speed contests from 2000 to 2017 in Los Angeles County.
As told to the LA Times, police across California say that street racers have been quick to turn public streets into their own playgrounds, challenging one another to races at dangerous speeds and performing just as dangerous stunts. Known as “sideshows” or “takeovers,” hundreds of people usually gather in an intersection, and given the current state of the world, whilst not respecting one’s personal space and distancing, which only increases the probability of a carrier spreading the virus to others.
A law enforcement official told the LA Times that Los Angeles-area racers have grown increasingly brazen since the pandemic paralyzed the city, with younger crews organizing takeovers in popular intersections, including near the Staples Center in downtown L.A.
Another CHP officer said that they’ve seen an uptick of groups engaging in “roll racing,” which is when packs of cars drive along a freeway before rocketing off chasing their car’s top speed.
In Early April, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation released a study showing speeds are up by as much as 30% on some Los Angeles surface streets. Moreover, the CHP has seen an alarming 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph. During the month after the start of the stay-at-home-order in March, the CHP issued 2,493 tickets throughout California for speeding over 100 mph — almost doubling the amount of the same offense seen during the same period last year.
Overall, drivers of all kinds have been speeding on California highways and streets, opening up a door for far more dangerous and even fatal accidents. The CHP has already begun to see more rollover incidents, single-car collisions, and more ambulances responding due to the higher volume of speeders on the empty roads, which has resulted in far more dangerous results.
According to statistics compiled by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30% of all fatal car accidents can be directly attributed to speeding. Furthermore, according to the National Safety Council, about 13,000 lives are lost yearly as a direct consequence of speeding.