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Death Penalty for Motorcycle Road Racers In China Might Be A Touch Harsh

Okay, so I get this part: a couple of motorcycle drag racers were arrested and charged with dangerous driving. I guess you’d expect a little traffic school and some heavy fines would follow. But what you surely wouldn’t expect is this; under new guidelines in China, those charged with street racing can get the death penalty.

You read that right, the death penalty. The Green Mile. A ride on Old Sparky.

Under the previous Chinese law, racers faced a penalty of less than 15 days if their racing activities caused no damages to other motorists.

The incident in question came about when two Chinese men met up in a garage on Leyuan Road, Pudong New Area, China. The pair hopped on their Yamaha and a Honda litre bikes, headed down the road a piece, made a U-turn and then screwed on the throttles in full view of a set of surveillance cameras. The race led the riders to some high speeds and they ran a few red lights. When patrol officers tried to stop the pair, they managed to escape – for a time.

For their bit of highway hooliganism, the pair were later identified by the authorities from the surveillance camera footage and were subsequently arrested and had their motorcycles confiscated.  The pair came clean in light of the video evidence, and their case was handed over to the prosecution last week.

 “Street racing seriously disturbs the traffic,” said a police spokesperson.

Which, given the possible penalty for the riders, is a dry sort of comment. I bet it seriously disturbed the riders as well…

ILLEGAL US RACING STATS

It’s not like people in the US avoid racing on the roads. These stats were compiled from a variety of safety studies done over the last few years. The penalties for street racing in the US, while costly and inconvenient, don’t really stack up to the possible fate facing Chinese who race on the public roads:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that police listed street racing as a factor in 135 fatal crashes during 2001. The total was up from 72 street-racing-related fatalities reported in 2000.
  • According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, more than 800 citations for illegal street racing were issued in 2001.
  • In San Diego, where street racing has been called “an epidemic,” 16 deaths and 31 injuries were directly related to illegal street racing in 2001. The city’s attorney’s office prosecuted 147 illegal street racing cases in 1999, 161 in 2000, and 290 in 2001.
  • In Florida in 2001, 7,216 citations were issued for racing on the highway.
  • In 1999, the Florida Department of Highway and Safety for Motor Vehicles reported 28 accidents related to illegal street racing, with 2 fatalities and 27 injuries. In 2000, the agency reported 39 racing accidents, with 1 fatality and 55 injuries. In 2002, there were 48 racing accidents, 1 fatality, and 60 injuries.
  • According to the NHTSA, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 16 and 20.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 5,749 teens died in the United States from motor vehicle crash injuries in 1999.
  • Statistics show that 49 people are injured for every 1,000 who participate in illegal street racing.

As a result, city and state ordinances have been issued regarding illegal street racing. Though laws vary, here are some penalties faced by street racers:

  • You can be arrested and have your car impounded for 30 days.
  • If convicted of street racing or aiding and abetting a street race, you can be imprisoned for up to three months and fined up to $1,000. Spectators are subject to penalties as well.
  • Your driver’s license can be revoked.
  • Your car insurance may be cancelled or the rates dramatically increased.
  • Cars in and around illegal street races are often issued equipment violations.