To Street Race or Not
Why do people street race? It is illegal and dangerous but somehow it’s on a steady rise in our nation. I believe this is because of the style of movies like “The Fast and The Furious”(Film)which depict and idolize a community of racers with scenes of them racing four wide through the middle of town while looking at each other. The Discovery Channel jumped on the bandwagon also with its new hit series Street Outlaws. The series showcase a group from the Oklahoma City area that has gained nationwide street racing notoriety by racing 7 and 8 second cars along access roads and in industrial parks at speeds that exceed double the posted limits. In the opening credits you hear Big Chief claim “We have the fastest street cars in the nation.”(television) What none of these movies and series show is what happens when things go wrong, and the gamble you take with your life and your fellow motorists lives when you engage in street racing.
It is easy to see the appeal of this scene if you have ever witnessed a street race in person. The racers have often spent a considerable amount of time and money on their cars and trucks to squeeze the last ounce of horsepower out of them. Everyone in the group has the desire to be the fastest person in town. When asked why they like to street race they will tell you any number of reasons. One answer is for the thrill of it. They know well the consequences that result from being caught by the cops or the risks of crashing but they still do it every weekend that weather permits. I have noticed that they will race on any stretch of road that is straight regardless of road condition or location. One group in the Siloam area have a preference for racing across a narrow bridge that crosses fifty feet above the Illinois River. The thought of this sends chills down my spine. Do these people think of the consequences of crashing over the railing in a fiery ball and plummeting into the frigid November water? I have to imagine not.
Several street racers say they street race because their isn’t a dragstrip close by that would allow them to race safely and legally. The closest track is in Tulsa and the test and tune session is called the Midnight Drags. Local street racers complain about how late the races are in Tulsa. When going to the midnight drags it isn’t uncommon to get home when the sun is coming up. Many of the street racers will tell you that if there was a local track that they wouldn’t street race anymore. This brings up the big question of why doesn’t the NW Arkansas cities and communities join forces and build a dragstrip for the community and surrounding areas?
I believe that building a dragstrip in the NW Arkansas area would be of great benefit for all parties involved. It would give the street racers a place to safely and legally race and enjoy their sport. It would bring in more revenue to the area from entrance fees, concessions and merchandise. Most importantly is the untold number of injuries and deaths it would prevent while making the roads safer for our loved ones to travel on. The dragstrip could put on special races a couple of times a year with sponsorship from local businesses that could pull racers from across the nation, which would help with advertising and exposure.
One downside would be the sound produced from the strip. This is one of the greatest enemies that dragstrip management is required to deal with on an ongoing basis. Over the years there have been numerous strips across the country that have been shut down because of the implementation of noise ordnances from city councils. This can be tied to a growing population. The population of the area begins to increase and the area around the strip that used to be open and free of residential area begins filling up. As the city grows and expands the land around the track is developed with no regards to the people that will be buying the homes. All the developers care about is the money. New residents moving to the area don’t care that the dragstrip was there first; they only care that the noise is a distraction and nuisance. The new residents rarely appreciate the sound of a high performance engine tearing down the track.
Track maintenance is another issue that has to be dealt with. Street racers depend on our state road crews for upkeep whereas the track is responsible for the expensive repairs to its racing surface. A successful dragstrip may spend two hundred dollars a night on traction compound. This compound is applied to the dragstrip surface so that the racecars can get the best traction available. The local street racers have few choices in this area. They are either required to take their chances with the dusty road and hope they don’t spin and lose the race or take extra time and do a burnout in small puddles of traction compound.
I believe that building a dragstrip would be a costly endeavor for NW Arkansas but the question I wish to pose is this. What is the price tag you put on human lives? It is far less to build a safe place for our youth to race safely than to ignore the problems that we know plague our streets and result in the loss of friends and family.
Unfortunately there is no guarantee that the racers will use the dragstrip if built. It is this group that needs addressed and I believe it would require even stricter laws on racing. I believe that if laws were made strict enough and enforced swiftly there would be a downward trend in street racing accidents. Naturally, this assumes that a facility is built and maintained.
While I do enjoy watching the street racing movies and series on television; I also know that these are staged scenes and are actually very safe and thought out. It is the viewers that watch these shows and think that they are real life events and want to go out and race their best friend so that they can be like Dom Toretto (Film) or Murder Nova (Television) that I fear for along with any unfortunate people that may be on the road that night.
“The Fast and The Furious”. Dir. Rob Cohen. Perf. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker.
Universal Studios, 2001. Film
“Street Outlaws”. Discovery. 2013. Television