While many cars are built for speed, most states have laws prohibiting racing, peeling out, and the like on highways. However, state laws differ in how they define and punish these racing and speed-exhibition offenses. This article explains when and how testing your car’s prowess for speed can result in penalties.
“Exhibition of speed” is a general term that is meant to encompass all the ways drivers endanger others by showing off a car’s ability to accelerate. In most states, exhibitions of speed include peeling out, screeching tires, spinning donuts, or otherwise causing the tires of the vehicle to lose traction during acceleration.
Offenses that could be classified as an exhibition of speed might also be charged as reckless driving.
Illegal speed competitions include street racing and drag racing. But a side-by-side race isn’t the only way to violate these statutes. The speed competition laws of many states also make it illegal to:
Basically, these laws aim to prohibit all forms of racing and speed competitions, regardless of how the participants organize them.
Participants. Illegal street racing can certainly result in citations against participating drivers. But, in some instances, non-driver participants can be cited as well. In many states, a vehicle passenger, spectator, or vehicle owner can be cited for abetting or encouraging a race or speed competition.
Exceptions. Prohibitions on speed competitions generally apply only to highways and public roads. Authorized racing on private, licensed tracks is perfectly legal. Certain driving maneuvers and accelerations can also be appropriate in different situations and environments. So, the legality of a driver’s conduct depends on the specific circumstances.
Most states classify exhibition of speed as a traffic infraction or misdemeanor. A conviction might carry a fine of up to a couple hundred dollars or more and possible jail time.
Street racing is generally a misdemeanor. A street racing conviction normally carries up to a few months in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. In many states, a street racing conviction can also result in license suspension and vehicle impoundment. Also, repeat offenders and offenders who injure someone else typically face much more serious consequences such as mandatory jail or prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. And street racing offenses that result in the death of another person could lead to vehicular homicide charges.