Author: Derrick L. Walker, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney
If you spend any time at all on the road, you have undoubtedly witnessed two or more vehicles weaving in and out of traffic at ridiculously high speeds in an attempt to outrun one another to some invisible finish line. Just watching these irresponsible drivers putting themselves and everyone else on the road in extreme danger can be a harrowing experience, especially when a crash occurs, as is often the case.
In fact, crashes resulting from illegal street racing are reaching epidemic proportions, and many involve serious injuries or death. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 1,047 people were killed in the street racing crashes between 2001 and 2008.
Street racing in Virginia
Virginia has taken a tough stance on illegal street racing. Under Virginia law, any person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on a highway or road, on a driveway, or on the premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public, is guilty of reckless driving. In addition to incurring thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, and a lengthy suspension or revocation of driving privileges, those convicted of illegal street racing also face significant jail time. Even in cases which do not involve a crash or injury, a conviction is punishable as a Class One misdemeanor, carrying up to a year in jail. The more serious cases, meaning those resulting in injury or death to an innocent bystander, are punishable as a felony and could result in jail time of no less than one and as many as twenty years.
Criminal penalties are just one aspect of the street racing epidemic. The crashes that result from vehicles moving at high speed result in devastating injuries to victims. Consequently, participants of illegal street racing whose conduct causes injury also face enormous civil liability. Physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, and profound orthopedic injuries are common in these crashes. Moreover, because illegal racing is often done willfully and wantonly and in conscious disregard for the safety of others on the road, punitive damages, or damages intended to punish or deter reckless conduct, may also be imposed, making these individuals responsible for huge sums of money if they are sued civilly.
It is also important to point out that the individuals who choose to engage in illegal street racing are often equally irresponsible with respect to the automobile liability insurance they choose to purchase. They are often carrying minimum limits on their automobile insurance policy, or worse yet, no liability insurance at all. As a result, those injured by these irresponsible drivers are often without a means to recover for their injuries, even if a significant judgment is rendered in their favor. This is why it is important to make sure you have substantial uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your overall automobile insurance policy package in case you or a family member is injured by an illegal street racer.
For more information on how to pursue a personal injury claim against an illegal street racer, please contact our firm for a free initial meeting.