Bill would make street racing, traffic obstruction a felony

Viral video shows cars blocking traffic, doing donuts on I-55 in Jackson
Viral video shows cars blocking traffic, doing donuts on I-55 in Jackson(Facebook)
Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 5:57 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill introduced during the 2021 legislative session could mean that individuals involved in street racing incidents like the one that occurred in North Jackson on New Year’s night could face felony charges.

A group of 10 lawmakers, including many members of the Jackson delegation, have authored H.B. 655, which would “revise the penalty for illegal drag racing to make it a felony.”

The bill has been referred to the House’s Judiciary B Committee.

If passed, the measure would amend Section 63-3-1215 to make it a felony to use public roads for “speed competitions, drag races, tests of physical endurance, (an) exhibition of speed or acceleration or for “the purpose of making a speed record.”

Drag racing is defined as “the operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other.”

The bill also would prohibit individuals from using a motor vehicle to willfully obstruct the use of public sidewalks, streets, highways, alleys, roads or other passageways.

Any person convicted of violating the rules would be guilty of a felony and face up to $2,000 in fines or two years in prison.

The bill’s principal author is District 72 Rep. Debra Gibbs. Co-authors include Reps. Shanda Yates (64), Percy Watson (103), Ronnie Crudup Jr. (71), Rufus Straughter (51), Bo Brown (70), Stephanie Foster (63), Hester McCray (40), Gregory Holloway (76) and Christopher Bell (65).

Members of the Jackson City Council discussed the measure at a meeting on Tuesday.

Some say the language of the bill is too broad, while others don’t want to charge drivers with a felony for such a crime.

“Most of this is done by young people in their teens and 20s,” said Ward Five Councilman Charles Tillman. “We know how young people think from time to time, just to have fun, and to slap a felony on them that would affect the (rest of their) lives is a little too much.”

Council members say they’re going to meet to discuss the proposal further.

The bill comes after street racers tied up the interstate for an hour on New Year’s night.

The incident occurred along I-55 in North Jackson. Police responded to the scene, but the drivers fled when they saw the blue lights.

So far, two people have been arrested, and both are being charged with misdemeanors.

Deadline for bills to come out of committee is February 2, according to a calendar on the House of Representative’s website.

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