Accident highlights dangers of Tampa Bay bridge racing - WFLA News Channel 8

Accident highlights dangers of Tampa Bay bridge racing

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Police say it happens nearly every night. Drivers are racing other drivers at speeds well over 100 miles an hour on Tampa Bay bridges.

Tampa Police Lt. Steven Lee says a recent wreck involving illegal racers and a Tampa Police cruiser highlights the problem.

Related story: 08/12/2013 Street racing leads to Courtney Campbell crash

"They're going to kill themselves or they're going to kill some innocent person," said Lee.  "It's too dangerous.  They need to find a racetrack, a legal racetrack, if they want to race."

Despite the risks, Lee says dozens of thrill seekers regularly gather for illegal races on the Courtney Campbell, Gandy Bridge, and 22nd Street Causeway.

"We're not ignoring the problem.  It's just gotten so big that it's turned into a tradition," explained Lee.  "We'll just keep hitting them in the pocketbook.  We'll impound their cars, and eventually, they're going to realize it's not worth it to be out racing on the weekends."

Florida street racing penalties were changed years ago from speeding tickets to first-degree misdemeanors.  Lee said a major challenge is, street racers tend to bounce around between different jurisdictions when police are out enforcing the racing laws.

"We'll scare them to the 22nd Street causeway out to HCSO's area.  They'll kick them out of there.  They'll go to St. Pete and the Gandy and it's just a real big viscous circle," he said.

The service manager at Cars and Concepts, Inc. in Tampa says they get lots of requests from drivers with a need for more speed.  He warns those looking for adrenaline rushes, to take the responsible route and stick to race tracks and drag strips.

"There's more at stake than just winning the race," said Matthew Hayes.  "You're putting people's lives at stake, as well as your own, when they're running that kind of stuff." 

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