Not long after the invention the Model T, people in the U.S. fell in love with their cars. Nowhere was the car culture more celebrated than in California. (Perhaps you recall the hit 80’s song “Walking in L.A.” The chorus: “Walkin’ in L.A., nobody walks in L.A.”.) Back in the day, street (drag) racing was popular, and dangerous. The “sport” has been celebrated in iconic movies and in popular lore. Street racing remains a major concern for law enforcement in California and it is even more dangerous now. Not only is there street racing on our roads and highways, but there are sideshows, often in parking lots, and street takeovers.
While sideshows are not new, they have been increasing in popularity in Orange County, and indeed, all over the country. Sideshows and street takeovers involve exhibitions of speed with drivers performing stunts such as drifting, donuts, and burnouts. These exhibitions take place in parking lots or on city streets and highways. The most brazen of these stunts is what is known as “ghost riding,” where the driver exits a moving vehicle and dances around it before hopping back in. Some of these exhibitions involve hundreds of vehicles and sometimes multiples of that as viewers. Thousands of these events take place every year in California. According to the California Senate, the California Highway Patrol responded to almost 6,000 calls involving speed contests or sideshow exhibitions in 2021. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) links many fatal crashes directly to this type of risky driving.
In 2020, the California Highway Patrol initiated an effort, Communities Against Racing and Side Shows, to address these dangerous, and unfortunately popular, driving exhibitions. Identifying sideshows, street takeovers, and street racing as a major cause of vehicular deaths and injury, the CHP launched this campaign to focus on the issue with the goal of decreasing these tragic outcomes. Along with enhanced speed enforcement, CHP has created task forces with local law enforcement and social media promotions on the dangers of these driving behaviors.