'Our streets are so unsafe now'; Bill addressing illegal street racing passes Washington Senate

A Senate bill is moving favorably through legislation to put the brakes on illegal street racing in Washington.

Senate Bill 5606 recently passed the Senate in a 46–1 vote. The proposal is now before the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

Washington’s current law on street racing is only defined as two people competing for speed—but that is not what’s happening on the roads. Hundreds of people illegally block streets and intersections in communities statewide, as racers compete for dangerous stunts behind the wheel.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said illegal street racing is a growing issue in her community. She claims social media has played a role in luring in young people between ages 18–25. The mayor said the city’s industrial district is seeing the most activity, but more intersections are also experiencing disruptions.

"[There are] intersection takeovers, where cars will block off portions of the intersection, and then they’re doing burnouts and donuts in the middle of the intersection, and it’s extremely dangerous," said Ralph.

"Traditional enforcement and arrests aren’t making an impact, and now we have to transition and come up with new strategies," said Jarod Kasner, assistant chief for Kent Police Department.

The bill aims to curb this crime by changing the definition of street racing and intensify the consequences for racers and others involved. It suggests a car be impounded for 72 hours for the first offense of illegal street racing. A second offense would require a forfeit of the car after a conviction. Along with holding illegal street racers accountable, the bill also calls out the promoters and organizers of the events. The bill states, "any person who knowingly aids and abets racing may be charged and prosecuted as an accomplice."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Police arrest alleged street racing organizer

State Senator John Lovick, representing the 44th Legislative District, is sponsoring this potential change in the law.

"Our streets are so unsafe now. I just think people share a total disregard for our laws," said Lovick. "I just really think it’s time that we do something. We need to send a strong message to those that are putting others at risk by their reckless behavior."

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards spoke in favor of the bill during a public hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. She said between January and March of 2022 in Pierce County, there were more than 150 intersection takeovers by illegal street racing.

Besides the disruption in traffic, Kent Police Chief Ralph Padilla told state lawmakers this crime is a breeding place for more crime. 

RELATED: City of Kent proposes bill to state legislators to address illegal street racing

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"Homicides occur, shootings where people are hit occur, armed robberies occur, felony assaults, attack on law enforcement officers and illegal gambling, just to name a few, go hand in hand with these events," said Padilla during the bill’s public hearing.