State lawmakers look to crack down on reckless driving in Memphis

Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 10:52 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis leaders spent much of 2022 pleading with lawmakers in Nashville to help the city stop the epidemic of reckless driving... and the call to confiscate the cars of dangerous drivers is growing louder.

Senator London Lamar, a democrat representing District 33 in Memphis, confirms bipartisan outrage among state lawmakers, especially in the Shelby County delegation, over behavior like the kind exhibited on I-240 just before Thanksgiving.

Drivers blocked the interstate Tuesday night and performed dangerous doughnuts with innocent bystanders unable to pass or get away from the harrowing scene.

“Lawmakers are serious about this,” Senator Lamar told Action News 5. “Your cars are going to get seized. So I’m telling you now, change your behavior or legislation from the majority will be coming and they will take your cars.”

The Memphis landscape is littered with doughnut skid marks, from the interstates to major intersections across the city.

And speed bumps are now everywhere: from Downtown to Midtown, even in parking lots like at the AutoZone store on Summer Avenue, which used to be a favorite for the doughnut-making crowd on Saturday nights.

Speeding is such a major problem that citizens tried installing their own speed bumps, frustrated by the wait time when requesting them from the city.

”It’s disappointing on a street filled with kids biking and families walking,” neighbor Steve Starrett told Action News 5 in May of 2021. “I’m just trying to slow the speeders down.”

Despite support from other neighbors, the city eventually removed Starrett’s DIY speed strips from his East Memphis neighborhood.

He and several other neighbors submitted applications to the city for speed bumps, reluctantly joining the long waitlist.

Time and time again, bad behavior behind the wheel in Memphis has needlessly shattered too many lives.

In June of 2021, an off-duty Memphis police officer accused of going more than 100 miles per hour killed two people on Walnut Grove.

A drag racing collision in North Memphis on Memorial Day weekend this year put 3-month-old Michael Jones in the ICU at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

The little boy was left with devastating injuries, and his desperate mother pleaded with Bluff City drivers to start being responsible.

”We were driving to get the baby some milk when it happened,” Chandra Johnson said. “It has to stop. It has to.”

In September, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee promised tougher enforcement on the interstates by hiring more highway patrol officers and assigning them to the Memphis district.

“We originally committed 20 of those to Shelby County,” Gov. Lee told Action News 5, “but there will be more than that when we finish the training for these troopers.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is the local voice leading the charge to literally get the cars of offenders off the streets permanently.

“What I’m going to ask the state legislature to do is let us confiscate their cars,” Mayor Strickland declared in August, “I don’t care if they serve a day in jail. Let me get their cars and then once a month, we’ll line them all up, maybe at the old fairgrounds, Liberty Park, and just smash ‘em.”

It appears state lawmakers are listening.

Newly-elected Senator Brent Taylor, a Republican who represents District 31 covering East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown, says there appears to be bipartisan support to get tough on reckless driving, especially on the interstates and highways.

“It’s just incredibly dangerous,” Senator Taylor said, “Not only for people who are being stopped on the interstate and can’t proceed, but it’s also dangerous to the young folks who are engaging in this type of activity.”

Consider this your warning, Memphis: stop pushing the pedal to the metal or your ride could disappear.

”There is going to be a bill coming,” said Senator Lamar. “So do the right thing. Think about yourselves. Think about other people on the road and be considerate. People die every day in car accidents. Don’t be the one that causes someone else’s death because you’re trying to have fun behind wheel.”

Tennessee state lawmakers will reconvene in Nashville for the next session on Jan. 10, 2023.

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