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Flint, MI– A proposed ordinance that would crack down on drag racing in the city of Flint is one step closer to being approved.
During a city council meeting Oct. 25, the council voted to approve an ordinance that would make drag racing punishable by jail time, fines, and in some cases, vehicle impoundment, for first reading.
The ordinance would amend the Flint City Code of Ordinances by adding a section titled “Drag Racing” to Chapter 28, Motor Vehicles and Traffic. This section would make it unlawful for people to participate in “a speed or acceleration contest or for the purpose of making a speed record,” or drag racing.
Drag racing is defined in the ordinance as the “operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to out-distance each other over a common selected course,” and also includes points about competitive speeds and timing.
According to the ordinance, drag racing creates “unsafe traffic conditions for other vehicles, playing children and pedestrians,” but also “draws criminal activity to the vicinity of the racing.”
The ordinance was first brought to the council in May. The council approved a version of this ordinance for first reading in July, but has since amended it after residents called in requesting changes mostly related to progressive penalties, and impounding vehicles.
While residents have frequently called into the council meetings to complain about drag racing and dangerous drivers, many spoke out against the harm that could be caused by seizing a family’s vehicle.
City Attorney Angela Wheeler said during the Oct. 25 meeting that after hearing concerns from residents and the council, amendments were made to the ordinance to create stages of penalties.
“The first violation would not yield a forfeiture of the vehicle. It would only be after the first offense when a person is continuing to do the same behavior,” Wheeler said.
The first violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of no more than 30 days in jail, or a fine of no more than $250, or both. The second or subsequent violation of the ordinance shall be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of no more than 90 days in jail, or a $500 fine, or both.
Wheeler said a vehicle used in a second or subsequent violation of the drag racing ordinance could be declared a public nuisance, and be seized, impounded, and forfeited.
Councilman Eric Mays said he didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t concerned about the problem, but that the forfeiture of a vehicle at the second offense still felt “too premature.”
“If it’s that big of a problem, then we can make the ordinance where you do mandatory jail, and you do it two or three times, and then maybe I’ll look at the public nuisance and confiscation, after the word spreads of people going to jail,” Mays said.
Council President Kate Fields said she’d like to pass the ordinance to provide resources for the police to deal with reckless driving and drag racing.
“The public had called council just begging us to do something about this problem because they did not feel safe … driving around in their own neighborhoods because of these donuts in parking lots and intersections and the drag racing,” Fields said.
The council voted 7-2 to approve the ordinance for first reading. Mays and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter voted against the ordinance. Fields, Councilman Maurice Davis, Councilman Santino Guerra, Councilwoman Monica Galloway, Councilman Herbert Winfrey, Councilman Allan Griggs, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing voted to approve it.
With the amended ordinance approved for first reading, the council will now need to hold a public hearing so people can speak on the proposed ordinance, and then have another vote to enact it.