NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee lawmakers are proposing legislation to crack down on organized street racing.
State Representative John Gillespie of Memphis is proposing House Bill 1661 for the legislative session after getting a bill successfully passed last year that increased the penalty for drag racing and organized street racing.
“One of the things we left out on that was the factor that there are still individuals that are going extremely fast over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic,” said Rep. Gillespie. “Right now we have people that are going 40, 50, 60 miles per hour over the speed limit, not just on the interstate, but on secondary roads, cutting people off. And quite frankly, it’s can be deadly behavior.”
Right now, reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor and HB1661 would add a new offense called “aggravated reckless driving,” which would be a Class A misdemeanor. In addition to the penalty for a Class A misdemeanor (up to 11 months and 29 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500), the court will be authorized to assess an additional fine of up to $2,500 against a person convicted of aggravated reckless driving.
“I think this just gives the police department another tool in the tool belt to where before they had to specifically witness two or more vehicles racing each other. And sometimes that just doesn’t happen out of the clear. Sometimes it starts with just one vehicle going off, and then another one behind it,” he explained. “So now the police can go after both incidences, and hopefully stop it from the start.”
The bill defines a person committing aggravated reckless driving as follows:
(1) Commits reckless driving; and
(2) Intentionally or knowingly impedes traffic upon a public street, highway, alley, parking lot, or driveway, or on the premises of a shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex, or any other premises accessible to motor vehicles that are generally frequented by the public at large.
“I’m hearing from moms and dads that are going to the grocery store and not feeling safe. And we’re not talking about taking the interstate here, we’re talking about on a two-lane road to the center of town. That’s just unacceptable,” Gillespie said. “I believe that one of my basic responsibilities is public safety and making sure that the community is safe from criminals, and this is a criminal behavior and it cannot be tolerated.”
On Wednesday, the House bill was assigned to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee while the senate version passed on Second Consideration and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.