Deadly Crash Sheds Light on Illegal Race Circuit

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Illegal street racing made headlines on Saturday when eight spectators were killed on a stretch of highway in Maryland. Drag racing experts — including a paramedic and a former racer — discuss the history and culture of the risky, underground pastime.

Guests:

Sheila Howard, volunteer paramedic for Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Dept. and Rescue Squad; was the first on the scene at the crash in Accokeek, Md., on Saturday

Kenneth Peak, professor in the Criminal Justice department at the University of Nevada; co-authored a federal monograph on street racing for the Department of Justice

Bryan Harrison, former street racer; president of Evo Street Racers, a national association that focuses on curtailing illegal street racing by encouraging street racers to become motor-sports racers

Car Smashes into Drag-Race Crowd, Killing 8

Eight people were killed and at least five were injured in a deadly crash on a suburban highway in Accokeek, Md., early Saturday.

Police said about 50 people had gathered to watch an illegal drag race, and after two cars sped by, a driver not racing came through and plowed into the spectators.

"It looked like some street competition or drag race situation. We had a vehicle that lost control and struck several individuals," Prince George's County Police Corporal Clinton Copeland said.

Maryland 210 is a relatively flat four-lane, divided highway that runs through Prince George's County — a suburb of Washington, D.C. Bedroom community subdivisions line either side of the thoroughfare. But residents say after midnight on weekends 210 turns into a speedway.

"Every Friday and Saturday night they drag race up and down 210. I mean it's nothing new. It goes on," said Lydia Ford, whose home faces the stretch of highway where the crash occurred.

Witnesses said the victims include grown men, not just teenagers. Ford said there are two well-known racing groups in the region.

"It's a group of boys that crowd over in the Giant parking lot and they drive the little Honda Civics, Accords all souped up. And another group that was here last night, they have the Malibus and bigger cars with bigger engines out here," she said. "They take turns; some race Friday night, some Saturday night. That's how they do. It's crazy."

Long-time Accokeek resident Mary Traverse says the drag races have been going on for more than 20 years. Racers sometimes practice on her street, less than two blocks from the crash site, she says, and have even blocked her access to the highway — once when she was trying to rush her child to the hospital for an asthma attack.

"I have been complaining to the police for years. In fact, about three weeks ago I complained about this noise and these incidents, so it takes something like this to happen to bring media and police to come down here," Traverse said. "It's not safe for the community, and it's encouraging people to risk their lives and other people's lives."

Traverse said maybe now that lives were lost, police will finally put an end to the illegal street races.

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