Two Tennessee lawmakers are targeting organized street racing.
State Representative John Gillespie (R-Memphis-HD97) and State Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon-SD24) have teamed up to introduce identical bills, HB1661 and SB1673. These bills create a new offense in the state code, aggravated reckless driving.
They establish the new offense, aggravated reckless driving, as a Class A misdemeanor. In Tennessee, Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail, fines up to $2,500, or both.
Rep. Gillespie says organized street racing can be “deadly behavior.”
He told WKRN: “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. 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 can be deadly behavior.”
Rep. Gillespie continued, discussing why he’s pushing these bills, “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. 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.”
The bill amends Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 55, Chapter 10, Part 2 by adding:
(a) A person commits aggravated reckless driving who: (1) Commits the offense of reckless driving, as defined in § 55-10-205; 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.
(b) (1) A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor. (2) In addition to the penalty authorized by subdivision (b)(1), the court may asses a fine of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) to be collected as provided in § 55-10-412(b) and distributed as provided in § 55-10-412(c).
These bills also amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-10-412, deleting subsection (b) and adding:
(b) The proceeds from the increased portion of the fines for driving under the influence of an intoxicant provided for in chapter 948 of the Public Acts of 1994, the additional fines for reckless driving, under § 55-10-205(d)(2), and the additional fines for aggravated driving, under SECTION 1(b)(2) shall be collected by the respective court clerks and then deposited in a dedicated county fund. This fund shall not revert to the county general fund at the end of a fiscal year but shall remain for the purposes set out in this section. For the purposes of this section, the “increased portion of the fines for driving under the influence of an intoxicant” is the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) on a first offense, the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of five hundred dollars ($500) on a second offense, and the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of one thousand dollars ($1,000) on a third or subsequent
HB1661 has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, while SB1673 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If passed, these changes would take effect on July 1, 2022 and would apply to offenses committed on or after that date.
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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network.
Photo “Street Racing” by Chris Yarzab. CC BY 2.0.