Editorial: The need to put the brakes on street racing and other dangerous driving

  • Naperville officials are considering ideas to curb excessive speeding, street racing and other "disruptive vehicle behavior" downtown and in other parts of the city.

    Naperville officials are considering ideas to curb excessive speeding, street racing and other "disruptive vehicle behavior" downtown and in other parts of the city. Daily Herald file photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 5/5/2021 9:54 AM

Street racing and excessive speeding are not new problems. For as long as there have been cars, people have been trying to make them go faster.

But that doesn't change a simple fact: Turning suburban streets into race tracks is a potential for disaster.

 

Just look at what happened on Sept. 25, 2018, when Jordan Gant of Bolingbrook and Uriel Zenteno of West Chicago were racing through Bartlett.

They were westbound on ­Stearns Road approaching Munger Road when Zenteno lost control of his Chevrolet Cobalt. He collided head-on with two vehicles traveling east on Stearns Road, killing two people. Gant was sentenced to six months in jail for his involvement. Zenteno is still awaiting trial.

Lives lost and others ruined because of dangerous behavior behind the wheel. It's a message for drivers throughout the suburbs. Although there are no easy solutions, communities strive to respond.

Naperville, for instance, is trying to crack down on "disruptive vehicle behavior," including speeding, loud mufflers and motorists evading police.

Naperville police say the problem got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially downtown, in parking garages and along Aurora Avenue.

Police Chief Robert Marshall reported that 48 people in 2020 -- and 25 so far this year -- fled from officers during lawful traffic stops, often at excessive speeds. That's a significant increase from the previous annual average of 19 cases.

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"I haven't seen this many individuals who flee from the police in my career in law enforcement," Marshall told our Lauren Rohr. "It's very dangerous, so it's very important we use all tools available to curtail this behavior."

Several ideas are being considered by Naperville officials. Two weeks ago, the city council raised the administrative towing fee from $300 to $500.

Naperville officers are allowed to pursue offenders only for a "forcible felony."

But under a city ordinance, they can tow and impound vehicles used to flee and elude traffic stops or in other misdemeanor offenses.

Now, drivers of offending vehicles will have to pay higher fees to get their cars back from the impound lot. In addition, the city plans to install speed bumps in parking garages and along various downtown streets.

We all have to share the road. If some of us flagrantly violate the rules, it puts everyone at risk, and the problem is not restricted to the city limits of Naperville. As Marshall pointed out last month, police see it statewide.

Hopefully, the steps Naperville is taking will have some success and provide direction for other communities.

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