Just one day after the premier of “Fast & Furious,” a movie that spotlights the world of street racing, a mother and her 2-year-old child died in Charlotte, N.C., when their vehicle was caught in the middle of an apparently illegal street race. A 13-year-old passenger in one of the racing vehicles also died, and the driver of that car now faces three murder charges, police say.
It’s the kind of tragedy that illustrates the need to get young would-be racers to pursue their interests safely – off the streets and on a secure track instead, says Steve Meade, a top Denver, Colo., radio personality known as “Willie B.” Meade co-stars on SPEED’s “PINKS All Out” drag racing lifestyle series, which will premier its third season in July.
Meade himself witnessed a similar tragedy as a young man when he watched an illegal street race go awry. Years later, the experience inspired him to participate in the Colorado Highway Patrol’s “Take It to the Track” program, a drive to encourage street racers to race on private tracks instead of public roads.
“When a young person is about to participate in a street race, they’re always going to have that one moment of reflection when they think ‘Should I really be doing this,’ ” Meade says. “We want to catch them in that moment and let them know that there is a safe alternative.”
The premier of the next “Fast & Furious” movie may well inspire some young drivers to think they can race like actor Vin Diesel’s character, narrowly escaping death and avoiding harm to innocent bystanders. Meade hopes “Take It to the Track” will help aspiring racers to realize the difference between fiction and reality, and pursue their interest in a safer setting.
“If a young person has that desire to race, they’re going to find a way to do it,” Meade says. “If there’s no safe alternative for them, they’re going to race on the street.”
Parents who see the drive to race in their teens and young adult children should take steps to help ensure their passion is fueled in a positive, safe environment, Meade says. If the community has a local race track, parents can contact managers to see if a drag racing program is available. If not, they should encourage the track to found one. Local law enforcement can also be a resource for establishing and supporting safe racing programs in communities, he notes.
Fast cars and racing are an integral part of the American psyche, Meade says. Millions of Americans avidly follow NASCAR racing and millions more are classic car devotees, collectors or just enjoy working on cars in their spare time.
“If your child has that passion for cars and racing, you either help and encourage him to do it the right way, or you risk finding out about it by a knock on the door in the middle of the night telling you that he’s been involved in an illegal race or worse,” Meade says…