San Diego Tries to Stop Deadly Drag Races

Perhaps inspired by the racing action in the 2001 hit movie The Fast and the Furious, illegal street racing, a high-octane mix of cars and kids, appears to be an increasingly deadly problem in American cities.

Just this month, three people died in an illegal street racing incident in the Washington, D.C., area, and Phillip Miyano, a 21-year-old college student, died in a crash in San Diego after being clocked at 100 mph, authorities said.

Miyano was the 17th young person believed killed in San Diego racing incidents in the past year and a half, and the city has had enough.

Tough new laws there make even watching illegal racing a crime. And, as an alternative, the city now offers a legal venue for racers.

"If you're racing [illegally] in San Diego, I guarantee you I will do my best to hunt you down and put you in jail," police Detective Kerry Menzior said.

The crackdown appears to be removing many illegal racers from the streets.

Perhaps further deterring them, two alleged racers are on trial for murder after the October auto deaths of Shanna Jump and Brian Hanson, both 19, and the permanent injury of Hanson's brother Michael.

"They were broadsided by two cars that were drag racing with their lights off," said Brian Hanson's tearful mother, Debby Hanson.

Legal Place to Race

Besides San Diego's law enforcement crackdown, young drivers in fast cars now are provided with an alternative — a place where they can race safely and legally.

Part of the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium, site of this year's Super Bowl, has been set aside for sanctioned racing. Under supervision and with the city's blessings, cars pair up for duels.

The combination of tough penalties and a place to race legally has dramatically reduced illegal racing in San Diego, officials say.

"Thirty days of jail time, fines?" said Daniel Wingo, a racer at the sanctioned race course. "You couldn't catch me out on the street again. There's no way I would do it."

‘This Is Our Drug’

But some young drivers remain defiant, with one telling ABCNEWS, "This is our drug, these are our toys."

"It's not going to stop me," said one racer, named Luke. "I'm going to be right back out and doing it again."

"Everybody has their drugs," said another racer, named Peng. "This is ours. This is our high, right here. … Speed."

The number of such holdouts is dwindling, and officials here say the program could be used by other communities across the country to put the brakes on street racing.