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Street Racing Deaths Surge In COVID-Stricken California

The pandemic has affected a lot of things, from where we work to when we drive. With many people working from home to stay safe, California is experiencing some of the least crowded streets in years. While this is excellent for pedestrians, cyclists and lovers of clean air, it is also encouraging some people to make roads more dangerous than ever by driving at dangerous speeds.

How could this be? It’s because empty roads are incredibly tempting for people who enjoy street racing. Plenty of California drivers are bored and stuck at home, and a small percentage has reacted by joining the “sideshow” community. Sideshows are illegal, unofficial events were groups of drivers take over roads or intersections to do donuts, ignore traffic lane rules, or, of course, race other drivers.

While sideshows are nothing new, police officers state that they’ve seen an uptick since the beginning of quarantine. Some departments report six to eight street takeovers a month, and intersections often used for sideshows can be spotted on Google Maps because they’re covered in tire marks.

The rise in these dangerous driving practices has already led to a body count. One street racing accident in December led to four deaths when 18-year-old Irvin Villarreal ran a red light going more than 100 mph. Both Villarreal and three occupants of another car died, and an additional three people were hospitalized.

The accident took place on Blackstone Avenue, a street with a speed limit of 45 mph. Villarreal had been racing another car and was going more than twice the posted speed limit at the time of the accident. While it can’t be known whether Villarreal would have gone racing that night if it weren’t for the pandemic, this accident is far from the only one that’s happened recently.

Pedestrians and spectators are at just as much risk from these risky behaviors as drivers and road users. Car clubs and sideshows often lead to groups of people on sidewalks and in the road watching drivers attempt risky maneuvers. These bystanders often wind up injured or killed when drivers lose control of their cars.

For example, Daniel “Dano” Patten died on Christmas Day 2020 when two cars hit each other and slid into a crowd of onlookers. He died at the scene of the crash, while racers and other spectators fled the scene.

It’s all too easy for drag racing or sideshow car accidents to kill other drivers or spectators. The speeds and dangerous maneuvers the drivers use are the height of negligence. Anyone who dies in one of these accidents has suffered the definition of a wrongful death: they were killed by someone else’s negligent behavior, by actions that a reasonable person would consider too dangerous to try.

While many California municipalities are working to crack down on the rise of drag racing and takeovers, these events still happen all too frequently. California drag racers put everyone else on the road at risk, even as other traffic goes down. If you’ve lost a loved one to a street racing accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. Contact an experienced San Francisco wrongful death attorney to learn more.