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posted: 7/2/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: The dangerous problem of street racing

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Suburban motorists face no shortage of dangers from other drivers who are distracted by texting, cellphones and electronic gadgets, or those simply not paying attention to the important task of operating a moving vehicle.

But is there anything with more potential for disaster than two cars racing down a suburban street?

That question appears again to have been answered with a resounding no last week.

A 16-year-old Antioch girl died when the driver of the car she was riding in lost control, police said, while street racing with another car along eastbound Route 120 in Gurnee.

Cynthia Perez was in the back seat of a 2004 Honda Civic and was thrown through the rear window when the car flipped. The Antioch High School junior was pronounced dead at the scene. Three other teens were injured.

Two teen drivers face serious criminal charges and possible prison sentences if convicted.

What a tragic waste.

Police don't know all the details of what started the race -- whether it was some show of macho one-upmanship or just kids goofing around. From what they do know, they believe the Honda was racing a 2000 Ford Focus. The Honda driver lost control, slid into the center median ditch, became airborne and rolled.

"(Street racing) is a danger to the participants as well as other motorists on the roadway," Gurnee police Cmdr. Jay Patrick told the Daily Herald's Lee Filas. "Poor decisions behind the wheel can end in tragedy in a fraction of a second. This is a clear example of that."

Unlike cellphones and texting, street racing is not a new problem. It has been going on for decades and is even celebrated in movies like "Grease" and "American Graffiti."

To no one's surprise, it seems to become more common with the arrival of summer and dry pavement.

But as with distracted driving, the fact that street racing continues to occur is amazing and shocking, especially given the attention paid to warnings against dangerous driving and the plentiful examples of what happens when those warnings are ignored.

Obviously, there are no clear and easy solutions.

It takes vigilance by all of us to help police fight this behavior -- by parents to be aware of the driving habits of their teens and to act when they suspect dangerous behavior behind the wheel, and by other motorists to report street racing when they see it happen.

The risk of not being vigilant is frightening, with the possibility for cars recklessly racing through traffic, jockeying for position at high speeds -- the kind of poor decisions behind the wheel that end in tragedy in a fraction of a second.

Tragedy like that which claimed the young life of Cynthia Perez.

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