Gwinnett County commission imposes harsher penalties on street racing

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously passed an ordinance to crack down on street racers, stunt drivers and those who organize or promote the dangerous but increasingly popular exhibitions.

“Illegal street racing is a rapidly growing activity in our community and communities throughout the country,” J.D. McClure, chief of the Gwinnett County Police Department, told commissioners before the vote.

Police have said a Buford man pulling onto Braselton Highway in July was killed when a street racer going more than 80 miles per hour crashed into his car.

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In May, police arrested more than 80 people and impounded at least two dozen cars after a street racing exhibition took over the intersection of Peachtree Corners Circle and Spalding Drive. In that incident, police said people surrounded and damaged a pizza delivery vehicle as the driver tried to leave the area. Police also recovered five handguns.

Street racing began to surge nationwide after the first COVID-19 restrictions emptied roadways. Although the number of incidents might have lessened slightly as pandemic restrictions fell away and buildings reopened, McClure told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his officers still get calls every weekend about racers and stunt drivers.

Gwinnett’s ordinance expands the definition of “participant” to charge people who promote, photograph, film or pay racers or stunt drivers. It also allows Gwinnett police to impound drivers’ cars on the first offense, a harsher measure than state statute, which requires someone to be cited at least three times before impoundment, McClure said.

Drivers, organizers and participants face fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months incarceration under Gwinnett’s ordinance.

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“Part of what drives this culture is spectators and creating an audience,” McClure told commissioners.

Law enforcement tracks drag racing drivers using intersection cameras and other resources, according to a county news release. The cities of Atlanta and Sandy Springs in recent years passed similar ordinances.