Seattle City Council outlines plans to curb illegal street racing

Jun 25, 2024, 6:52 PM | Updated: Jun 26, 2024, 2:44 pm

Image: A photographer captured a Seattle street race with spectators nearby checking out what's hap...

A photographer captured a Seattle street race with spectators nearby checking out what's happening. (Image courtesy of Teri Lee McClain via KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of Teri Lee McClain via KIRO 7)

There is virtually no city in Western Washington immune to illegal street racing. It happens everywhere. And people are injured or killed in the violence that all too often comes with it.

Now, the Seattle City Council wants to put an end to the illegal activity that has profound and deadly consequences.

“This last weekend a pedestrian was critically injured, and another person was shot. Last year, a woman was shot and killed on Capitol Hill at a street racing event,” Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said. “In the past several years, these events have increased the public safety and health hazard in a nuisance way, but also in addition a complete danger.”

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The council first plans to update the definition of illegal street racing to include drifting and street takeovers where drivers literally take control of an intersection while drivers perform burnouts and donuts.

Organizers notify spectators of upcoming events on social media, so crowds can be quite large. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) says with big crowds comes arguments, fights, and all too often, shootings.

“SPD has responded to significant violent crimes associated with these street racing events, including multiple homicides, traffic collisions resulting in serious injuries, some of which involve uninvolved pedestrians,” SPD Assistant Chief Daniel Nelson said.

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The council may also look into ways to dissuade spectators from attending the events and there is also a call for three city departments to play a larger role.

“SPD from an increased emphasis patrol perspective, Parks because we need more Park rangers, and also the Seattle Department of Transportation,” Seattle City Council member Rob Saka said.

Previous Seattle City Council action on racing

The Seattle City Council has tackled racing in the past, passing legislation in 2023, sponsored by members Lisa Herbold and Alex Pedersen, to reduce drag racing and dangerous driving.

The city ordinance kickstarted plans to install speed enforcement cameras in key areas of the city that are heavily impacted by unsafe driving.

Earlier coverage: Seattle cracking down on street racing with speed enforcement cameras

“Our community has been pleading for help for years to stop drag racing. (A 2023) crash on Alki Avenue Southwest shows just how dangerous conditions have become,” Herbold, who is the chair of the Public Safety Committee, said. “I’m proud to have partnered with neighbors and pass this first-of-its-kind legislation to make our streets safer.”

The passed legislation designated 10 dangerous zones throughout the city, which includes West Marginal Way, Sand Point Way, NE 65th Street near Magnuson Park, Seaview Avenue, 3rd Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr Way, Rainier Avenue, and two on Alki Avenue.

Contributing: Frank Sumrall and Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

James Lynch is a reporter at KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of James’ stories here. Follow James on X, or email him here.

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Seattle City Council outlines plans to curb illegal street racing