By Team RaceLegal
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Next Race Friday–May 29th.

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RaceLegal, the safer and sanctioned track alternative to illegal street racing, was developed with one goal in mind. Saving the needless loss of young lives to an illegal street race gone bad is RaceLegal’s mantra. To that end we have been remarkably effective. The concept was one of providing a youth oriented environment in a neutral and centrally located location where we could replicate a street environment, but with safer and sanctioned conditions that insured the safety of our racers and their fans. The under pinning is one of skillfully redirecting illegal street racing behavior to the safer and sanctioned sport of drag racing in a youth oriented setting. As sated above, the results are impressive.

Community Based Intervention

Most communities view illegal street racing activity solely from a law enforcement perspective. In San Diego we choose to view this high risk behavior as a broader public health and safety issue. With that concept in mind we developed a comprehensive community based solution entitled “Closing the Loop on Illegal Street Racing.” The “Closing the Loop” approach to intervention is comprehensive, across the board and accomplished with a spirit of cooperation between all agencies involved. The community realized early on that we were not likely to significantly impact this high risk behavior without the combined and committed effort of rigorous law enforcement, consistent adjudication, meaningful probation and a user friendly track alternative like The paradigm developed is outlined in the diagram below: image: circle-relationship.gif   As reported above, the results in the appropriate direction are unprecedented and testament to what a community in unison can accomplish.

Project Goals

  • Provide a minimum of 24 annual safer and sanctioned track alternative to illegal street racing “events” at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.
  • Continue to serve as an integral aspect of San Diego’s “Closing the Loop” approach to intervention as it relates to the incidence of illegal street racing in our community.
  • Continue to organize the San Diego community via the techniques of social networking, media advocacy and creative epidemiology in an effort to maintain high level community awareness of the incidence local illegal street racing activity, driving unbuckled and ’0′ tolerance as it relates to drinking and driving.
  • Provide consulting expertise to other communities interested in becoming a RaceLegal associate member.

Illegal street racing continues to advance in popularity, especially among young male adults. Nationally and internationally, illegal street racing is claiming hundreds of lives and injuring thousands annually.

Illegal street races are notorious for being poorly controlled and randomly organized. They also operate with a minimum of rules and safety measures. New communicative technology such as websites, cell phones and underground publications as well as a new generation with more free time, financial resources and a passion for speed has significantly heightened the risk for both participants and bystanders.

As recently as 2002 San Diego suffered the devastation of 16 deaths and 31 serious injuries as a direct result of illegal street racing activity. When these 2002 data were converted to a combined mortality/morbidity incidence rate, we were faced with the fact that for every 1,000 young people who choose to illegal street race in our community, 49 were either killed or seriously injured. A rate of that magnitude was properly defined as epidemic in nature.

The program was formed in 1998 by Dr. Stephen J. Bender, Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology/Biostatistics in San Diego State University’s Graduate School of Public Health. Via a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, a comprehensive grass root community based coalition entitled “Closing the Loop” was initiated. This coalition involved city/county government, local law enforcement , Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), Superior Court, City Attorney, District Attorney, county probation as well as the safer and sanctioned track alternative to illegal street racing.

Year  Deaths  Injuries  Total Decrease
2002 16 31 47 base year
2003 4 6 10 -79%
2004 6 15 21 -55%
2005 0 2 2 -96%
2006 1 0 1 -98%
2007 11 4 15 -68%
2008 1 3 4 -92%
2009 1 0 1 -98%
2010 0 4 4 -92%

Turnaround of this magnitude in the appropriate direction is impressive and a direct result of a community joining shoulder-to-shoulder and simply saying “enough is enough.” The “Closing the Loop” approach to intervention quickly made San Diego a poor choice for illegal street racing activity, thus the stellar turn around in illegal street racing related death and injury over the six year reporting period.

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