CHICAGO — Two lawmakers have proposed a law that would lead to more fines and criminal charges for people street racing on state roads, including DuSable Lake Shore Drive and major expressways.
State Reps. La Shawn Ford and Margaret Croke are among the co-sponsors for the Vehicle Blocking Control Act. Should the law go into effect, the state could fine people who street race or block traffic for racings $250 for their first offense and charge them with a misdemeanor. Street racers could face a fine up to $500 and felony charges for offenses after that.
The Illinois House passed the bill unanimously earlier this month. The bill is being reviewed in the Senate. Ford said he expects it to pass. It would then need to be signed by Gov. JB Pritzker to become law.
Ford and Croke said they are backing the bill because of persistent street racing on major roads in their districts. Ford’s 8th District includes the West Side and some western suburbs near the Eisenhower Expressway. Croke’s Lakefront district on the North Side overlaps with DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
Under city rules, drag racers can be fined $5,000-$10,000 per offense, they can face misdemeanor charges and the owner of the car can be fined $500 and have their car towed, impounded and seized. Street racing on DuSable Lake Shore Drive and on the expressways has continued to be a problem, though. State lawmakers are hoping the law will help prevent such races and provide more significant punishments for those who participate.
Ford said he hopes the bill will stop drivers and motorcyclists from popping wheelies, burning-up doughnuts and revving for races on the highway.
“The drag racers, the people who do these stunts, they know they can get away with it because they know there are no rules,” Ford said. “We’re not trying to lock anybody up, but hopefully this deters bad behavior.”
Officials with the state and city departments of transportation said they are not yet involved with the legislation. Chicago police and state police did not respond to requests for comment.
Ford said he introduced the bill after a crew of drivers shut down a portion of the Eisenhower in December to race and perform stunts. The incident froze traffic and blocked access to Rush University Medical Center, he said.
“It was just a dangerous situation playing out in real time, and it’s something we’ve seen over the years happening,” Ford said. “We really shouldn’t allow that.”
Croke said street racing has gotten “crazy at night” on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, and excessive noise coming from the road is one of the main complaints she gets from constituents. Croke said she often sees drivers “popping up a wheelie” and “being antagonistic to one another” when she drives DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
“I always drive like I’ve got my 2-year old-in the car. I kind of want everyone to drive like the people who have 2-year olds-in the car,” Croke said. “This is not ‘Fast & Furious.’”
Ford said he “understands the love of speed” — he owns a 1979 StingRay Corvette — but races should happen away from roads so they don’t “involve other people in an activity they didn’t sign up for.”
Ford said there should be designated spaces for drag racing “with the proper procedures and rules in place.”
“People will pay for that. It’s a sport,” Ford said. “I don’t know if I would participate, but I would definitely drive my StingRay there and watch.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: