As the car scene has grown exponentially through the pandemic, so have illegal stunt driving and activities. Whether it is seen as enthusiasts lacking an outlet or hooligans distributing the peace, there has been no question local police departments have began cracking down.
Recently Clayton County police surrounded and arrested dozens for stunt driving over the weekend in a Sams Club parking lot off of Jonesboro Road. They did so by finding a live video posted on social media and then surrounding the group.
According to the AJC reports “A total of 102 people were arrested: 75 adults and 27 juveniles,” This included impounding 48 cars, arrests were made of participants as young as 11 years old and even included confiscating 4 firearms.
Stunt Driving vs. Street Racing
Many articles characterize it as an “illegal street racing bust”. From the videos posted by news outlets this appeared to be parking lot drifting, not what enthusiasts would typically consider street racing.
We all know that “Street Racing” is generally similar to a drag race, where drivers line up (or run slowly from a roll). While some people are foolish enough to do this in traffic, organized street racing generally involves blocking off a street sometimes even includes gambling on the outcome.
Stunt driving involves using a parking lot or blocked off street to drift or do donuts. There often not a direct competition (other than style).
The large scale and highly publicized bust adds to the crackdown and enforcement we’ve seen in the Atlanta car scene. From the City of Atlanta seeking to stop freeway and roadway shutdowns for stunt driving, to Dunwoody police’s enforcement at Caffeine and Octane. It is clear there is an ongoing battle between the community/police and car enthusiasts. In the end, it’s not healthy.
Nearly ever major police jurisdiction in the core 5 county Atlanta area (Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Cobb) have added new laws, enhanced punishments or executed busts. Now even the Georgia State Patrol are joining in.
New “Street Racing” Laws Coming
The effect of the community and police backlash have been that lawmakers are beginning to take up new laws and enforcement techniques at the state level. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp last month even spoke about the “illegal racing”. While as we note above the term is often a misnomer, the impact is clear.
Recently lawmakers introduced HB 534 to enhance punishments for racing and stunt drivers. It includes suspended licenses and fines on par with a DUI, even if it didn’t occur on a public road. It also enhances punishments for those seen as “organizers” and “promoters”, as well as repeat offenders. These punishments include jail time. They’ve even proposed specialty license plates for “high performance vehicles”.
Impact On the Car Scene
Like many things that draw the attention of the community and lawmakers, the rules may impact those who do not attend or promote illegal racing. While just about all of us are guilty at some point of driving too fast or maybe doing a highway pull playing with other cars, the backlash against the enthusiast community could be high.
Often as there is a rise in publicity around these behaviors, other more mainstream activities may suffer. We already noted Caffeine and Octane. However, other events are beginning to find additional rules such as more police presence and in some cases no longer being allowed to host meets.
Still, for now most of this enforcement is targeted at the scene and the impact to general enthusiasts have been minimal. If the problem continues to get worse, that could quickly change.
While timing and cost are always a factor when discussing legal outlets, it is important to note there are a number of ways to both race and drift legally. They are rarely open late at night when many want to entertain themselves and costs are high, but it is important to note they do exist.
During the 90s and 2000s the availability of Friday night drags along with enforcement are partially responsible for helping to push racing off of the streets, though it never stopped completely.
Lanier Raceplex offers regular drift days where you have the opportunity to out on the Kart/Drift track.
Porsche Experience Center offers a drift pad as part of their driving experience.
Atlanta Motorsports Park offers a wet drift pad available for rent.
Atlanta Dragway features Fast Fridays with open test and tune. The best part is it happens on a Friday night and is relatively inexpensive (~$30).
Atlanta Motor Speedway has Friday drag race competitions.
Silver Dollar Motorsports Park offers Friday Test and Tune’s with a tailgate like atmosphere. Like the other options, it’s also relatively expensive.
Drag Racing is actually one of the most accessible forms of competitive racing.
We have a complete list of Atlanta Track Days with dates available multiple times a month at a variety of tracks. Prices are higher than drag racing, but start as low as $150. Compared to a $5,000 fine its at least in the conversation like the cost of an Uber vs. a DUI.
Like much of the car scene there are rarely uniform opinions. It’s not uncommon here at ShiftAtlanta to hear from those who are not interested in some of the immaturity in the scene. However, we are also not ones to judge. We were also (and in some way, still are) young (and dumb).
Still, there seems to be a large reckoning as police and communities are implementing new rules and laws to crack down on unwanted behaviors to the potential ending of events, there is no questions – something needs to change before the non-car community stamps out events.