Birmingham residents call for more action against exhibition driving

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Efforts by the City of Birmingham to crack down on exhibition racing led to new legislation being signed into law last spring. However, downtown residents say they want to see more actions than words.

House Bills 29 and 107 set up stricter penalties for violations including donuts, burnouts and drag racing. While Birmingham police say those laws have helped them to make felony arrests and tow vehicles, some residents still feel unsafe.

By day, Chris Hughes’ fifth-floor balcony overlooking Red Mountain in the Lakeview neighborhood is peaceful. However, he and his wife Ce Ci say weekend nights are completely different.

“It’s gone from being annoying to aggravating and it’s really hindered enjoying life downtown,” Hughes said.

A video shot by a local business owner shows exhibition driving happening in a parking lot at 32nd Street South and 5th Avenue South late Saturday night.

The noise and the danger have the empty nesters contemplating a move. Hughes says the drivers continue coming back to the area — even after the couple calls officers to disperse the cars.

“I think there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic even at that hour,” Huges said. “You worry about accidents happening.”

Hughes isn’t the only neighbor who’s worried. Rickey Slayton, a bartender at Mayawell who also lives in Lakeview, says his biggest concern is his patrons’ safety once they walk out the door.

“Worst fear is one of them loses control and runs through the bar,” Slayton said. “I would definitely like to see more patrolling in the area, more manpower just to keep it more safe.”

CBS 42 reached out to District 5 City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn Tuesday afternoon with the resident’s concerns.

“There was legislation passed during the session last year that increased penalties on exhibition driving, and you know it’s had limited effect really,” O’Quinn remarked.

He noted that the city cannot restrict access to private property, like the parking lot where these cars are gathering. Video captured by CBS 42’s crews also shows the exhibition driving taking place in the streets.

“The communities increasingly frustrated, and thus I’m increasingly frustrated,” O’Quinn said. “All of that gets communicated to the mayor, and at the end of the day it’s up to the folks who run our city to live up to the expectations of our constituents.”

CBS 42 reached out to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office on Tuesday after talking with O’Quinn. His office referred to the following statement released by the Birmingham Police Department:

On behalf of the Birmingham Police Department, we are grateful for recent state laws that provide more tools for police in combatting the crime of reckless and dangerous exhibition driving. Those laws allowed Birmingham Police to make felony arrests and tow vehicles recently.

Despite these helpful new tools, police cannot be everywhere at once. That’s why it is critical that state lawmakers pass legislation giving cities like Birmingham the authority to use traffic cameras to ticket, tow and even arrest exhibition drivers who endanger the public. We are committed to making our streets safer and with the help of these laws we can address an issue that is a growing national problem.

Birmingham Police Department

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