New data shows drag racing, street racing getting worse in Shelby Co.

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:16 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County has seen an increase in drag racing and reckless driving.

In Tuesday’s city council meeting, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich shared that in 2019, the county reported 594 reckless driving incidents. In 2021 that number grew to 790.

In 2019, four drag racing incidents were recorded and in 2021 that number went up to 72.

“I think it’s important to remember as well that these are not standalone charges. In other words, most of these reckless driving numbers that you’re looking at, that charge is going to be connected to a driving under the influence charge,” said Weirich.

Weirich said there are 1,044 cases pending of reckless driving and 54 for drag racing. She said that number is not shocking given the caseload along with the increase of incidents all while working through a pandemic.

Weirich dove into how difficult it is to prosecute someone for drag racing versus reckless driving. In order to prosecute someone for drag racing, they need to prove multiple factors, whereas for reckless driving all they need to prove is someone “drove in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

“That’s a much easier case for us to establish that doesn’t require the technical evidence and proof from law enforcement, and that’s why we often have a situation where that A misdemeanor drag racing may have to be pled down, reduced to that lesser charge of reckless driving,” said Weirich.

Weirich went on to share a few suggestions to help prosecute those responsible.

“What are some of the possible fixes here for the legislature change reckless driving? Right now, it’s a B misdemeanor. Change it to an E felony, change it to an A misdemeanor, make reckless driving a more serious crime in the state of Tennessee,” said Weirich.

Another suggestion Weirich shared was to change the law and allow law enforcement to seize that car upon arrest for drag racing.

Reckless driving is not just an increasing issue in Shelby County. The 2022 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws annual report points out that in the last two years, roadways have been more dangerous and fatal.

Tennessee is ranked average, suggesting there are gaps that can be filled in to improve safety.

The report lists laws that can help. Two of them are primary enforcement seat belt law for backseat passengers and open container law.

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