Legislation to crack down on “street takeovers” and stunt driving blew through House and Senate panels on Tuesday.
State law already prohibits street takeovers and stunt driving as a dangerous activity alongside street racing. A pair of bills (SB 876/HB 399) would allow law enforcement to broaden their net to enforce banned sideshow activities, such as burnouts, doughnuts, drifting and wheelies.
The proposal also increases penalties for impersonating an officer — including using flashing lights — from a noncriminal violation to a first-degree misdemeanor.
Codifying the acts would allow police to use video evidence to enforce the law. Both measures passed their respective committees unanimously on Tuesday.
North Miami Beach Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, told the Senate Rules Committee that street takeovers that block intersections and emergency response vehicles are dangerous and relatively new phenomena.
“The game now, and a point system, is for usually kids to try to tap the back of the vehicle as it’s doing a rotation, and when it expands and goes out into a greater area, it can result in serious bodily injury or death and often does,” Pizzo said.
As the House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee debated a similar version carried by Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine told members that streets aren’t meant to be racetracks. Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg-King said five people died in a crash on Camino Real last year in a case of high speed driving.
“This is something that’s getting very serious, especially with our younger generation,” Slosberg-King said. “It’s incredibly dangerous when kids get behind the wheel and they start doing these doughnuts and drifting and wheelies.”
Other videos have shown motorcycle riders doing wheelies on the highway after removing their front wheel, Pizzo said.
In late September, a 64-year-old man was killed and a 42-year-old mother of four was decapitated while riding in one of several cars doing doughnuts. Pizzo showed footage of the wreck last month during a Senate Transportation Committee meeting.
Several state and municipal governments — including Arizona, California, Georgia, Mississippi and New York — have taken steps recently to crack down on street racing and stunt driving, which has surged across the country as streets and highways normally congested with traffic were cleared of vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The problem isn’t unique to the United States. In April, police in Toronto reported a 222% jump in stunt driving over the prior 10 months.
Pizzo’s bill, which would take effect in July, is now ready for the full Senate’s consideration. Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s bill awaits its final committee hearing, slated in the House Judiciary Committee. Rodriguez’s version would take effect in October.
Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.