Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez has introduced a companion measure to a bill filed last month by Sen. Lauren Book to crack down on drag racing.
Book, a Plantation Democrat, filed similar legislation last Session. But that attempt failed to court a companion bill and stalled in the Transportation Committee. This year’s version (SB 258) will be bipartisan with Rodriguez backing the House Bill (HB 399).
“Raising a family of my own has amplified the importance of what it means to keep our streets safe,” Rodriguez said in a Friday statement announcing the filing. “I am proud to work across the aisle with my colleague Sen. Lauren Book to strengthen penalties for those that are endangering the people’s lives by recklessly drag racing through our neighborhoods.”
Rodriguez’s bill is mostly similar to Book’s. Book’s bill amends state statute to clearly add “roadways,” “parking lots” and “organized rides” to the list of areas where these races are barred. The bill defines an “organized ride” as “the operation of more than three motor vehicles that cause the movement of traffic to slow or stop for any race, competition, contest, test, stunt, or exhibition of a vehicle’s performance capabilities or of a driver’s ability in violation of this section.”
Rodriguez’s legislation does the same, except it uses the term “takeover ride” instead of “organized ride.”
Both bills also would explicitly ban racing with mopeds, all-terrain vehicles and other vehicles not licensed to operate on roads. The measures also target race spectators and organizers who use social media to promote an illegal race.
Existing state law already punishes knowing spectators at an illegal drag race. Current law defines a spectator as “any person who is knowingly present at and views a drag race, when such presence is the result of an affirmative choice to attend or participate in the race.” Factors used to determine whether someone meets that definition include “the relationship between the racer and the individual, evidence of gambling or betting on the outcome of the race, and any other factor that would tend to show knowing attendance or participation.”
Book and Rodriguez would also add “filming or recording the race, or posting on social media” to the list of factors used to establish that someone is a knowing spectator.
Existing law also bars individuals from participating in, coordinating or facilitating such races. The bills would clearly state that coordinating a race “through social media or otherwise” is prohibited.
Rodriguez’s bill does add one provision not present in Book’s version. It would increase the penalty for drivers using certain prohibited lights, such as those used to mimic police cruisers or emergency response vehicles. The legislation would up the penalty for those infractions from a noncriminal traffic violation to a first degree misdemeanor.
“I am also particularly proud of our effort to strengthen penalties against anyone impersonating law enforcement officers,” Rodriguez said. “Our streets have been a Wild West for too long and we are on the right path to ensuring they are safer than ever before.”
This will be Rodriguez’s second and final term in the House. He announced earlier this year he would pursue the District 10 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission in 2022.