A red Ford Mustang is doing donuts in the intersection, drifting. Dozens of people are watching, hands on their phones, watching as the car makes clouds of tire smoke. Cars block all four directions at the intersection, not letting traffic through. The news video that went viral wasn’t from someone’s phone, but from the local Sheriff’s Office helicopter, as it was watching the illegal street takeover.
In another instance, trucks take over four lanes of Interstate 40 in the middle of town and try to drift, do donuts and more, while holding up interstate traffic and commuters.
Both of these “takeovers” happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recently. While nobody was hurt in these incidents, illegal street takeovers have become a problem nationwide. In some cases bystanders and drivers are getting hurt.
What is a street takeover?
You’ve probably seen the headlines about illegal street takeovers: dozens of cars taking over freeways, intersections and parking lots doing donuts and burnouts. Drivers crash cars. Pedestrians get hit.
They’re like flash mobs, but with cars. They often move from intersection to intersection in a city, making them harder for police to stop.
Takeovers became popular during pandemic lockdowns. People with fast cars were cooped up at home and started looking for ways to show off. They spread via social media chats and channels.
Ken Block and Travis Pastrana’s legally-made videos inspire many of the antics.
The headlines about illegal street takeovers sound alarming
Every local news station seems to have a recent sensational headline about an illegal street takeover.
“Police: 300 drivers outside of city attempted ‘organized takeover’ of Richmond streets,” in Virginia, “Street takeovers force shutdowns of Glendale, Scottsdale intersections on same night,” from Fox 10 in Phoenix.
Could illegal street takeovers and drifting be a felony?
In some cities, the problem is getting so bad that ordinances are being passed that make it a crime just to watch these takeovers. Santa Ana, Calif., and Los Angles are both trying to crack down on spectators because they’re the ones, cell phones in hand, making YouTube stars of the street racers.
In Florida, HB 399 will go into effect this October that explicitly prohibits people from “driving motor vehicle in (a) street takeover,” which includes penalties for highways, roadways, and parking lots. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.
Atlanta police arrested 88 people at one takeover in early May. Richmond, Va. police recently issued 100 tickets at an illegal takeover. These laws are being passed because the takeovers are getting more deadly.
What is a takeover in the car community?
Of course, there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of legal streetcar takeovers all over. The “takeover” moniker is popular at legal drag strips. Takeovers are races for non-racecars. Often, dragstrips invite cars to race at local drag strips or tracks to compete in takeovers. Sometimes they’re for vintage cars, or prepared street cars. The Sportsman class includes cars like the SRT Chargers and COPO Camaros and is very popular for people who want to drive their racecar to the track.
Tracks sanction takeovers. They have ambulances on-site, and teams of marshals make sure everyone stays safe.