‘People are dying:’ Florida bill would stiffen penalties for repeat illegal street racing

Florida lawmakers are looking to continue their crackdown on illegal street racing, increasing penalties for those who are caught burning rubber on the roads.

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Illegal street racing has been an ongoing issue here in Duval County.

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In 2021 Action News Jax discovered dozens of videos showing large coordinated illegal street races.

Later that year, one of those illegal events even popped up in front of JSO headquarters, blocking off Bay Street.

Since then, JSO has announced several anti-street racing stings, which have resulted in hundreds of citations issued and dozens of arrests.

Related Story: 36 arrested, $92K in fines issued during illegal street racing crackdown, Jacksonville police say

Even as Florida lawmakers have sought to crack down on illegal street racing by threatening spectators with charges and allowing for video of races to be used as evidence, the problem still persists.

Duval resident Michael Brunswick told Action News Jax he often hears street races from his Westside home.

“One, two in the morning, guaranteed you’re gonna hear ‘whaaa’ as loud as possible,” said Brunswick.

Related Story: ‘It’s just scary’: Neighbors concerned over illegal street racing and sideshows in Jacksonville

And snow birds Jan and Jerry Graves told us they even witnessed a street race on the highway a few hours before we spoke to them Tuesday.

“It’s kind of scary for the people that just drive down the road and are not in a hurry to get nowhere,” said Mr. Graves.

Now, Florida lawmakers are proposing stiffer penalties for racers caught multiple times in a one year span, increasing second offenses from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Related Story: Guns, drugs and fast cars: Jacksonville police crackdown on street racing

The bill would also make street racing offenses that block emergency vehicles or involve ten or more cars blocking a road a third-degree felony.

“People are dying. People are getting seriously injured and it’s a very coordinated and organized scheme,” said Senate sponsor Jason Pizzo (D-Hollywood) in the bill’s first committee hearing in that chamber Tuesday.

The Graves said they believe stiffer penalties could help.

“I think the would deter them somewhat,” said Mr. Graves.

“If they’re to be deterred, " added Mrs. Graves.

Read: 18 people arrested in relation to reckless driving on motorbikes, Jacksonville sheriff says

But Brunswick said he worries illegal street racing will continue be a difficult crime to police.

“You’re gonna still have your people who like to go as fast as they can,” said Brunswick.

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The bill still has two more stops in the Senate and one more in the House before floor votes in each chamber.

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