ATLANTA — Families who have lost loved ones due to reckless driving and street racing are getting involved in calls for tougher state legislation to curb the increase in illegal activities.
A fiery crash in DeKalb County killed 18-year-old Zaria Mincey in October.
Witnesses told police the driver of a black Challenger ran a red light and weaved in and out of traffic at close to 100mph before crashing head-on into the car Mincey was in.
The Redan High School graduate had just enrolled in college to eventually become a tax agent like her mother.
“She was just very much a positive person, a positive force,” said LaShanda Hudson, Mincey’s mother.
Ratcliff Haynes was arrested and charged then released on bond.
Now Hudson worries about how many others are driving through Metro Atlanta residential streets with a “street racing mentality.”
“You could come home to your mother in a bag,” she said. “That’s how my daughter came back to me, in a bag.”
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Events for street racing and laying drag have become more common in public areas across the metro since the start of the pandemic.
Roswell is the latest metro city to take up new legislation against street racing. Doraville passed legislation recently that fines drivers and spectators who are caught.
In Atlanta, Councilman Michael Julian Bond sponsored an ordinance that makes racing suspects appear before a judge before release from jail.
Despite hundreds of citations issued by APD he is worried about racing events promoting more reckless driving.
“There are people who are being more aggressive in their driving just on a routine, you know, they’re just matriculating around the city,” Councilman Bond said.
It also hit home for the councilman last month.
Someone accused of racing another car on Columbia Drive in DeKalb County crashed into family friend Jaye Sanford and killed the mother of two.
DeKalb County Police say charges are pending and the investigation is ongoing.
“[Her children} are going to be raised without a mother because of someone’s purposeful, reckless activity,” he said.
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State Senator Jen Jordan says she’s been working with local officials and law enforcement on drafting new state laws to help police crack down further. Law enforcement officials say they need help impounding vehicles. Jordan says future laws have to ensure suspects receive due process.
“Whether it’s points added to people’s insurance or whether it’s the ability to maybe impound a vehicle,” she said.
But some local activists have been pushing back at local and now state attempts to punish people suspected of racing.
“I don’t support seeing an expansion of the criminal legal system to address street racing,” said Devin Barrington-Ward with the Movement for Black Lives. “Particularly at a time when we are seeing that there systemic racism through and through the criminal legal system.”
At Atlanta Motor Speedway - you’ll find drifting and stunt driving - on an actual race track.
“We understand the excitement, we understand the passion, and the adrenaline rush that goes behind it,” said Kyle David, a car enthusiast who organizes drifting events.
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David worked with the company Catch My Drift last summer to put together a racing event at AMS. The pandemic has slowed their ability to coordinate with AMS this year, but he’s recruiting people who normally race on public streets for their next events in 2021.
“We want you guys to come out and have fun,” he said. “We don’t want you to get in trouble. We don’t want you to get arrested or get these $1,000 fines. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. Just come on out.”
Meanwhile - LaShanda Hudson is planning a Christmas without her only daughter.
“I got to continue to try and make her proud,” sad Hudson.
She says she will continue to push for tougher laws to keep more parents from feeling her pain.
“How can you say you’re going to do something about it if there’s no ramifications behind it and no consequence to the action?” she asked.