ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 30, 2024) – Starting June 1, 2024, Maryland will enforce stricter penalties for street racing and exhibition driving. Thanks to a new law signed by Governor Wes Moore, offenders will face mandatory court appearances, up to one year’s imprisonment, and doubled fines of $1,000. Additionally, convicted violators will receive 8 or more points on their drivers’ records, risking suspension or revocation of their licenses.

John Seng, chair of the Maryland Coalition for Roadway Safety (SafeRoadsMD), expressed his support for the law. “Thanks to the unified willpower for road and street safety demonstrated by our elected State officials, with the stroke of his pen, Governor Moore knocked down the ‘Welcome to Maryland’ sign for perpetrators of organized, criminal exhibition driving violence,” he said. Seng emphasized that Maryland lawmakers prioritized safety and tranquility on roads and in communities, warning that continued disruptions will not be tolerated.

In recent years, organized criminal gangs have taken over intersections, shopping malls, and town centers across Maryland for illegal street racing, from Baltimore County to College Park and Silver Spring. To address this issue and constituent concerns, Senator Pamela Beidle (D, District 32, Anne Arundel) and Delegate Mary Lehman (D, District 21, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel) introduced companion bills SB 442/HB 601 in the 2024 Maryland General Assembly Session.

Senator Beidle reported 139 major exhibition driving incidents in Maryland in 2023 during a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing. Delegate Lehman testified before the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee, describing the escalating scale of these events and their potential to disrupt communities, endanger law enforcement, and cause serious injuries or fatalities.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy praised the new law, stating, “We are thankful that the legislature and Governor Moore have strengthened the penalties to deter street racing and other dangerous behavior on public roads. The new law will help to hold violators accountable. Simply stated, speed kills. Exhibition driving also places motorists and pedestrians in grave danger. This is a step in the right direction when it comes to keeping our roadways safe.”

The Maryland Coalition for Roadway Safety, Inc., along with advocacy and community groups like the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and the City of College Park, supported the legislation. AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Public and Government Affairs Manager for Maryland and Washington, D.C., Ragina Cooper Ali, highlighted the life-saving nature of the measure. She noted that even modestly higher speeds at the time of a crash significantly increase the chances of severe injury or death, and illegal street races amplify these risks.

The new law targets individuals involved in racing or speed contests, whether on highways or private property used by the public. It also prohibits participation as a timekeeper or flagman. Convictions involving serious bodily injury will result in imprisonment up to one year or fines up to $1,000.

College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir, PhD, underscored the law’s importance in providing law enforcement with additional tools to combat these reckless events. The law defines “exhibition driving” as operating a vehicle near a crowd in a manner that causes skidding, squealing or smoking tires, swerving, loud noise, grinding gears, backfiring, airborne wheels, or passengers hanging out of windows or on vehicle hoods.

Stephanie Helsing, President & CEO of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, also praised the law. “We were thrilled to be able to submit testimony in favor of HB 601,” she said. Helsing shared that businesses and residents in Silver Spring have been impacted by these terrifying rallies, sometimes trapped for hours. She believes the legislation will have a significant positive impact on both the Silver Spring community and the entire state of Maryland.

The implementation of this law marks a crucial step in ensuring road safety and preventing the dangerous and disruptive behavior associated with street racing and exhibition driving.

[Source: SafeRoadMD.org]