Movies may portray street racing as a glamorous and exciting pastime for car lovers, but they fail to show the darker side. Street racing is illegal, and for good reason. It is not mere ‘prudishness’ that led to laws banning street racing, as illegal racing has led to hundreds of deaths around the country, and countless other drivers have been arrested, fined and even jailed for engaging in such behavior. What often goes without notice by those who engage in this deadly pursuit are the damaging consequences to innocent bystanders. Property damage and bodily injury do not discriminate between willing participants and those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Street Racing in the News
While the death of actor Paul Walker is a sad reminder of the dangers of driving at high speeds, it should also act as a warning to those who wish to emulate his on-screen behavior. When watching the carefully planned and executed stunts in the Fast and Furious franchise, copycats fail to remember what is arguably the most important message Mr. Walker ever provided to his viewers; simply put, “Be Smart, Drive Safe.” Last year, this message was not heard by the now well-known Antioch Township teen whose negligent driving caused the death of his passenger. While his defense attorney may characterize his behavior as merely “bad judgment,” there are plenty of teens who are of driving age that choose to not engage in such reckless behavior. The teen was sentenced according to the law, but has since proven that his “bad judgment” was arguably not corrected by the sentence imposed.
Penalties and Effective Enforcement
Illinois law considers street racing to be a criminal act, punishable by fines, driver’s license suspension, and/or imprisonment of up to 12 years in aggravated situations. After continued incidents of racing on Illinois streets, some may wonder whether it is time for stricter penalties to be enforced against those who choose to engage in this reckless behavior. What many individuals who engage in street racing may not realize is that they may also be opening themselves up to liability under civil negligence statutes. Someone who has been injured by a driver engaging in negligent or reckless behavior may be able to bring a claim for damages against the driver for negligent infliction of emotional distress; a claim which can often lead to thousands upon thousands of dollars in monetary damages due to the difficult nature of trying to put a price on emotional harm. Illinois law allows for such claims by those who have been harmed by negligent behavior, and a finding by a jury that a driver engaged in illegal behavior (i.e. street racing) may go a long way toward proving a driver’s negligence during a civil lawsuit.
If you or someone you know has been injured by someone else’s careless driving, call the team at the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. Our Chicago professionals have over 20 years of experience helping clients recover the damages that they deserve. Merely because someone chooses to engage in behavior that shows “bad judgment” does not mean that his or her victims should be left without recourse.