x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Impound cars to stop street racing

Car owners, and not just garages, should be punished for illegal street racing.

Street racing is in the news again, but at least there are no funerals involved this time. This reckless sport too often makes headlines after fatal crashes, such as the 2010 one that killed an Emirati man going peaceably about his business until two teenage street racers going 130km/h crashed into him in a 60km/h zone.

Dubai police are continuing their efforts to control the problem before more lives are lost, The National reported yesterday. In addition to arresting those caught racing, police are now also shining a harsh light on the few garages that encourage illicit street racing.

There's a fat profit to be made by modifying powerful cars to make them even faster, police note, and some garage owners are all too willing to ignore the possible consequences.

To many young men with fast cars, any fairly clear straightaway resembles a racetrack. The condition known jokingly as "testosterone poisoning" makes almost-deserted late-night streets awfully tempting. The result is exciting semi-secret races - and sometimes accidents, even fatal ones, for participants or for unsuspecting speed-limit-abiding innocents who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This constant risk of tragedy is doubly sad because there is a legitimate, safer outlet for this sort of need for speed. Drag racing - by tested drivers in specialised cars on approved tracks - is well-established in the UAE. There are high-speed activities at the Yas Marina circuit and elsewhere.

Illegal racing on the streets, meanwhile, needs to be snuffed out before it kills again.

Policing garages is a challenge, for practical reasons. But those garages that combine the mechanical skill and ethical blindness this practice demands should expect frequent visits from the police - and stiff fines for anyone who can be proven to be encouraging street racing.

Mechanics, however, are only the enablers; it is the racers themselves who demand the most official attention. The most direct approach to suppressing dangerous street racing would involve confiscating vehicles and holding them in impound lots for long periods.

Street-race drivers cherish their vehicles. Perhaps taking away their toys until they learn to play safely is the approach that promises the best chance of putting the brakes on this dangerous abuse of the roads.