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Street Takeovers Become Major Public Safety Issue in Los Angeles

Car spinning its wheels at a street takeover

Crowds known as “street takeovers” have reportedly become a serious problem in LA, causing injuries and fatalities in the Greater Los Angeles area in the last few years.

A recent Los Angeles Times article takes on the issue of so-called “street takeovers, describing them as a growing issue. But what are street takeovers or “side shows? 

They are illegal events where flash mobs of spectators and cars throng specific intersections, sometimes even interstates, blocking traffic, with participants performing daredevil stunts like drifting. The birth of sideshows has been traced to 1980s Oakland, where such events sprouted in mall parking lots.

Los Angeles police are now impounding vehicles in an effort to reduce dangerous street takovers.

The Danger of Street Takeovers

Vehicles that turn and screech through intersections in these takeovers spin dangerously close to cheering crowds, whose members then film these stunts and post them on social media. And that further creates a frenzy around street takeovers, publicizing them. 

While illegal street racing has been a part of Los Angeles and its car culture for many years, police say the practice has taken an even more lethal turn in recent years with the proliferation of these street takeovers.

According to the LA Times, in the last eight months, at least six people have died during or near street takeovers. These illicit events have surged in popularity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic when city streets emptied out due to lockdowns. 

In the first six months of 2021, in the city of Los Angeles alone, there were 500 of these sideshows, the Los Angeles Police Department reports. During the same time this year, LAPD has reported 705 street takeovers.

Police say there is also a growing criminal element at the events involving weapons and drug violations. A majority of these sideshows are organized via social media posts, particularly Instagram, which is more popular among younger social media users. 

The LAPD has also taken to social media recently to create awareness about this problem and show people how dangerous some of these stunts can be. Los Angeles police have reported 667 takeovers, issued over 2,000 citations, and impounded 439 vehicles since the start of the year, the LA Times reports.

A Major Threat to Public Safety

California lawmakers have taken some action against illegal street racing and sideshow activities. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3 into law, which could suspend the license of any driver caught participating in these street events for up to six months.

Some cities in California such as Fairfield have taken the issue a step further. They hope to deter similar street events with the passage of an ordinance that would also hold spectators accountable for watching the event. 

Spectators could end up facing misdemeanor charges and up to a $1,000 fine for watching a street takeover. The ordinance also sets a 200-foot distance within a sideshow incident where a spectator can be cited.

Speed and Recklessness: A Lethal Combination

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), 29% of all crash fatalities nationwide occurred in speed-related crashes. High speeds increase the likelihood of a crash because it takes longer for the car to stop or slow down. 

They also make car crashes more lethal because crash energy increases exponentially as speeds increase, and that means more severe injuries. Research also shows that when speed limits are increased, speeds go up as do deadly crashes.

Research shows that for every 10 mph of increased speed, the risk of death in a crash doubles. When speed increases, the risk of serious injuries and property damage also goes up exponentially. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, speeding killed 11,258 people. Speeding is more than just breaking the law. The consequences of speeding include:

  • Significantly more potential for losing control of the vehicle.
  • Seatbelts, airbags, and other safety devices may become less effective in protecting vehicle occupants.
  • Stopping distances could become longer, increasing the risk of a crash.
  • Such crashes cause severe, often catastrophic, injuries.

Who Can Be Held Liable in Street Takeovers?

These sideshows or street takeovers are a public scourge to be dealt with. But, when individuals are affected, there are a number of serious repercussions. Medical expenses can add up very quickly. 

Victims and families could face significant financial pressure because they may be unable to work or in some cases, may never be able to earn a living because of permanent injuries and disabilities.

There are a number of parties who could be held potentially liable for street takeover-related accidents. Obviously, the drivers who behaved recklessly and caused the accident can be held accountable for injuries and damages.

In some cases, when police departments fail to respond to street takeovers in a timely manner, they could be held liable as well.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a street takeover accident or if you have lost a loved one as the result of such an incident, it is important that you reach out to an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer who will stay abreast of the official investigation and make sure that your legal rights and best interests are preserved.

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California Personal Injury Blog