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Like all things that suddenly spiral out of control, car sideshows started (relatively) quietly and out of sight. Often held in abandoned parking lots, sideshows were often just that – a more boisterous car meet held beyond public view. It was a way for car enthusiasts to show off, but critically, do so away from public roads and the dangers they present.

Today though, car sideshows have spun wildly out of control. Beyond a group of rowdy car enthusiasts ripping around the abandoned ruins of one of America’s decrepit shopping malls, sideshows are now taking to the streets. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a problem. But more and more, these events seem to be more prevalent and more dangerous than ever before.

Street takeovers and sideshows are increasingly dangerous

Car sideshow with car doing donuts on public road
Car doing donuts at an illegal street takeover | Myung J. Chun via Getty Images

Let’s not gloss over the fact that sideshows have long been a hotbed for dangerous driving. Today though, sideshows and their more dangerous offshoot, street takeovers, are putting unwilling bystanders in harm’s way.

At a Kansas City sideshow in September of 2022, a sideshow participant lost control and killed a pedestrian. And whether that pedestrian was a spectator or not is an indication that things are getting out of hand.

In New Jersey later that same month, a sideshow participant crashed into a vehicle killing a passenger, before careening into a pair of pedestrians and killing one of them.

Of course, car crashes are only part of the problem with these illegal street takeovers. More recently, they have become the site of deadly shootings in cities across the country.

In December of 2022, ABC10 reported a shooting death in Turlock, CA as a sideshow was taking place. And you can find similar stories across California, Florida, Texas, and elsewhere throughout the country.

It doesn’t have to be this way

As car enthusiasts, it can be difficult to accept responsibility when the community does something wrong. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, these illegal sideshows and street takeovers are harming the very thing we claim to love.

It isn’t hard to understand the crackdown on modified vehicles, the uptick in traffic enforcement, and the rise of anti-car activists when these events are causing irreparable damage to people, families, and communities.

Furthermore, there are plenty of places to show off that don’t involve public streets and innocent bystanders. There are thousands of racetracks throughout the country that are often utilized just a few times a month. Organize a group and reach out to these facilities for performance driving and even sideshow-style exhibitions.

In my local area of Vermont, the Sports Car Club rents space in an old mall parking lot for autocross events. Whatever we can do to keep reckless driving off the streets is worth looking into.

The alternative is to continue terrorizing innocent people and calling negative attention to the community. It’s a slippery slope between where things are now and full-on crackdowns on modded cars and even driving within city limits.

In California, new laws will charge drivers with vehicular manslaughter if someone dies in a sideshow. In Oakland specifically, participants face jail time for simply participating in such an event. And that’s to say nothing of the hundreds of impounded cars as a result of sideshows and street takeovers.

In all, it’s a sad day to be a car enthusiast. But not because of new laws or enforcement. But because our community is eating itself and many don’t even realize the problems they’re causing.

Related California City Threatens Harsh New Punishment For Anyone Caught at Street Takeovers

California City Threatens Harsh New Punishment For Anyone Caught at Street Takeovers