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Debbie Dujanovic ReportingStreet racing like you've never seen it before. We show you what's happening as faster speeds and more racers are taking over city streets.
They say they pick city streets so they can be seen. They prefer roads with long stretches between traffic lights. As we'll tell you, the speed limit means nothing. Our investigation exposes a problem that's growing fast in the heart of Salt Lake.
Hundreds of racers are taking over busy city streets like 700 East, State, 4500 South and VanWinkle Expressway. Here's the proof -- Eyewitness News has obtained home video shot from inside a car. It was a night of racing city streets. The video shows 7th East -- 3300 to 4500 South.
"PUSH THAT *!%#, PUSH THAT*!%# WHAT'S THE SPEDOMETER AT? HOLY*!%#, 130 DUDE, 130 WE GOT 130."
Annette Warburton, Mother of Victim: “It scares me to death, it scares me to death to think that it's escalating."
For more than three years Annette Warburton has lived with grief -- the loss of her son.
Annette Warburton: "The truth is drag racing does kill people. My son's death is a direct result of drag racing, direct result of drag racing and Craig's not coming home."
Murray city, August 31, 2001, Craig Warburton is on his way home from school when a drag race between two students ends Craig's life. A teenage driver lost control of his car at 80 miles an hour and hit a group of boys as they walked. Craig died at the scene.
Annette Warburton: “They’re doing it consciously. They’re not under the influence of anything except youthful stupidity.”
We contacted Annette Warburton to let her know what we'd learned during another interview for this story. A street racing study she'd requested after her son's death has just been published. It confirms what she was afraid of, tickets are on the rise in Utah. They’re up more than 100-percent since the mid-90's. And the tickets aren't stopping the racers.
Researcher Stacey Knight conducted the study.
Stacey Knight, Intermountain Injury Control Research Center: "It's a big enough concern because it appears to be growing, and the outcomes can be devastating."
Sgt. Scott Vanwagoner, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office: "You can hear the engines revving, the tires spinning, the smoke rising from the tires."
Sheriff' Sergeant Scott Vanwagoner: "We've clocked them at 110 miles an hour on city streets."
In minutes he stops two cars on State Street.
Sgt. Vanwagoner: “I clocked myself at 75 to 80 miles an hour just to catch him.”
Vanwagoner says racers are more organized, using the internet to post pictures of undercover police cars and plan races. By the hundreds they gather, on one Friday night at parking lot in Murray.
Debbie Dujanovic: “Why do you race?”
Brandon Smith: “Because it’s fun. There’s too many restrictions. It’s like a thrill…being young.”
The races can go for hours, accelerating through intersections, weaving around city traffic.
Scott Vanwagoner: “It’s absolutely insane, it frightens me to death.”
The penalty is a fine that can vary by city. Court records show one driver paid a hundred-dollar fine. Those who know how dangerous it's become say it's time to enhance the penalties and put a stop to racing on our city streets.
Annette Warburton: “They may need to lose their license, perhaps their car if that’s what it’s going to take. Shouldn’t everyone else on the roads feel safe?”
Other states are passing tough laws, allowing officers to seize cars or put racers in jail. Utah State Senator Karen Hale says she'll take on this issue and investigate tougher laws here. We'll keep you posted.
Street Racing is the topic Friday morning on the Doug Wright Show. Join us on KSL NewsRadio 1160, starting at 9:00.