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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida lawmakers are calling for stricter penalties for street racing

A bill designed to crack down on illegal street racing, stunts, and other behavior is moving through the Florida Senate. Miami-Dade Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo said he plans to ramp up punishment, so that innocent people can stop getting hurt. (AP Photo/Frank Wiese)
Frank Wiese/ASSOCIATED PRESS
/
AP
A bill designed to crack down on illegal street racing, stunts, and other behavior is moving through the Florida Senate. Miami-Dade Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo said he plans to ramp up punishment, so that innocent people can stop getting hurt. (AP Photo/Frank Wiese)

A bill designed to hit the brakes on illegal street racing is accelerating in the Florida Senate.

Over the years, in Florida, young drivers have participated in what they call “street takeovers,” where live participants and viewers on social media praise drag racing, stunt driving, and burnouts on public roads.

A new bill filed by State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, aims to put an end to the illegal activity once and for all.

“People are getting seriously injured and it’s a very coordinated and organized scheme," Pizzo said Tuesday in front of a state Senate Transportation Committee. "It has resulted in deaths in my district and entire cities including the one I live in.”

After a spike in street racing citations in 2022, the Florida legislature implemented new laws to help curb the dangerous activity. But Pizzo told the Senate committee that wasn’t enough to get the mostly young perpetrators to stop. He said he wants the state to enforce stricter penalties by making street takeovers a felony, instead of just a misdemeanor.

“They [street racers] are not going to be deterred by the monetary effect," said Pizzo. "They very often are using stolen vehicles so they are not worried about seizure or forfeiture, but the subsequent conviction will result in the revocation of their driver’s license.”

Illegal street racers could face charges of up to $7,500 in fines and potentially lose their license for a year, under a new bill passed by a Florida Senate committee.
Abdel Meguid al-Fergany/AP
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AP
Illegal street racers could face charges of up to $7,500 in fines and potentially lose their license for a year, under a new bill passed by a Florida Senate committee.

Pizzo’s bill (SB 1764) defines a coordinated street takeover as a group of 10 or more vehicles acting together to pull off stunts and other illegal behavior on roadways. He said when drivers do this, it’s dangerous and not just for the drivers on the road. The takeovers block emergency vehicles from moving freely on the roadways.

Under the proposal, violators would face fines of up to $7,500 and could lose their license for at least a year. The measure also applies to spectators. They’ll be forced to pay a $400 fine, a huge jump from what’s currently a $65 traffic infraction.

Pizzo said once the word gets out on social media about his legislation, offenders will be deterred.

“Word will get out that you can no longer get together on WhatsApp, Instagram, or Snapchat," Pizzo explained. You should not be showing up...the word will get get out to these kids that you can’t do it anymore.”

A similar measure (HB 449) is working its way through the House.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.

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