Fresno Sheriff, Police, AAA & Local Leaders Team Up to Caution Street Racing-Sideshow Enthusiasts

FILE: Photo by: Thomas Peipert /AP

FRESNO, CA  – With summer approaching, law enforcement, local officials and AAA came out in full force to caution street racing and sideshow enthusiasts from engaging in these dangerous and illegal activities.

“The CHP remains steadfast in its commitment in reducing violent crimes on California’s roadways. With proactive enforcement utilizing all our resources such as our air and ground support units, we will prove a strong presence throughout the state,” said CHP Chief Ceto Ortiz, Central Division.

Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Central Valley) who is pushing for the approval of $5.5 million in state funding for the enforcement against illegal sideshows said, “We have seen a staggering spike in dangerous sideshows. There is not a weekend that goes by where there’s not a street race or sideshow.”

“These drivers are reckless. They are putting their lives and the lives of innocent people at risk. We need to do everything we can to support law enforcement efforts to shut these acts down.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) 

Sideshows and street racing have surged during the pandemic. The California Highway Patrol reported it received more than 25,000 calls last year related to street racing and street takeovers – a 16 percent increase from 2019.

“Street racing and sideshows have surged in popularity in Fresno, and they’ve directly led to several tragedies and lives lost in our city. We’ll be taking action and stepping up enforcement efforts – because if we don’t, it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.’”

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer

Law enforcement officials want to focus on proactive enforcement to stop dangerous sideshows before they start.

“Street racing and sideshows are not unique to just one area.  These reckless drivers make their way all over California and into counties such as Fresno County.”

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims

“This is why a team effort between all of our local law enforcement agencies is a critical component to combat these careless motorists.  I support this proposal to raise awareness and dedicate more resources to this rampant problem in order to protect the lives of our residents and law enforcement officers.”

Last year, Assembly Bill 3 (Fong), a bill to allow judges to suspend the license of a driver who participate in sideshows for up to six months, and be fined up to $500.

Under this measure, a sideshow was defined for law enforcement purposes for the first time: Two or more persons blocking or impeding traffic on a highway, for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving, for spectators. These activities often lead to street racing after the show.

“The City of Fresno, like many other cities in our state, has seen an alarming increase in street racing and sideshow events. These illegal activities not only endanger the lives of those involved, but also the innocent members of our community who are traveling on our streets. Over the past two years, our city has had two incidents where street racing and sideshows directly contributed to the death of 4 people and the serious injury of several bystanders. We stand together with our law enforcement partners, dedicated to showing our community the dangers of these activities and holding those who participate in the accountable.”

-Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama

Recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that even modestly higher speeds at the time of a crash dramatically increase the chances of severe injury and death, and also can cancel out the benefits of vehicle safety features (like airbags).

“Since our founding in 1902, AAA has been an advocate for motorists, safer roads and vehicles, better educated drivers and the rights of travelers. To achieve this goal, law enforcement need the necessary resources,” said Xavier Maltese, Government and Public Affairs Director of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah.

Listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern.