Picture this: groups of sports cars illegally racing on a public highway in your community all night long, going back and forth at speeds beyond 100 miles an hour, in the midst of regular traffic.That's what's happening nearly every weekend on Interstate-165 near downtown Mobile, and FOX10 News Investigates caught the illegal activity on camera while undercover on three different occasions in October and November. On those occasions, the FOX10 News Investigative Team also observed approximately 20 to 30 sports cars, muscle cars, and motorcycles gathered at the gas station near the entrance of I-165, waiting for their turn to race on the interstate. Through the early morning hours, the cars and motorcycles take turns, racing back and forth on the straight-away between the entrance of I-165 and the Bay Bridge Road exit, which is in Mobile Police jurisdiction. FOX10 News began investigating the issue after receiving a tip from a concerned resident who works close by to I-165. “Just see it as an extreme hazard to the general public, and families that travel that highway,” said the witness, who wished to remain anonymous. The witness said he’s seen the activity going on just about every weekend night for the last year. "I just want something done about it,” he said. “Say if my family or your family was traveling down that highway, in the middle of the night, they're totally at risk, unnecessary risk, and it's senseless."Dangers of illegal street racingThe witness is correct, it’s certainly not a safe practice. In 2016, 80 people across the country were killed in street racing crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also reported six people in Alabama have died in racing-related crashes since 2014. One of those victims was Rodney McQueen, 33, of Mobile, who died while racing his best friend on Duval Street on January 3, 2014. “When I pulled up, I just jumped out of the car, and his car almost looked like a can, and he was laying on the ground, and they had already covered him up,” McQueen’s sister, Tracy Hughes, recalled about the scene of the crash. Hughes told FOX10 News she misses her brother every day. "Just a terrible time, it's been three years, but it's just a terrible time,” she said. Hughes said she hopes other people who consider street racing, will think twice before getting in the car. “Just a very simple, just one second to think, ‘hey, this is not a good idea,’ and my brother would probably still be here,” said Hughes. “If a person is out there and thinking about racing, and that moment when they look over to their opponent, just stop and look out the other window, and picture your family…just think about your life, because it could be gone in an instant.”INTERACTIVE MAP: Fatal street racing crashes
FOX10 News reports street racing to Mobile Police
Knowing the real dangers behind street racing, FOX10 News showed its findings about the activity on I-165 to Mobile Police.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said he had heard about the issue in recent months, but explained it had been difficult to take action previously.
He also explained he wanted to avoid any high-speed pursuits that could potentially endanger the public even further.
After seeing the videos of the racing captured by FOX10 News, Battiste said he would increase patrols and crackdown on the racers.
"Not only are they placing themselves at risk, but they are placing the entire community at risk for their behavior,” said Battiste.
Saturday night, November 4, Mobile Police set up an operation to catch the racers in the act.
Undercover officers called in descriptions of the racing cars to officers in marked vehicles. Those officers in uniform then pulled over the racers at the gas station, where they gather before and after races, and started issuing citations.
The undercover officers, whose identities must be concealed for future operations, said they are glad FOX10 News alerted them to what’s been happening on I-165.
"Honestly, I would have never known this was going on,” said one officer. “I didn't really even know what the process was, until we got here… and then you guys gave us a little bit of information, details, we went up there, seen it and felt it for ourselves, and I'm just really glad that we were able to see it and take a little bit of action against it, hopefully set an example to others. It looks like we have so far, just hope that it stays this way, because this is just really dangerous, to have this going on… So it's nice to help take part in this."
A total of seven citations were issued Saturday night.
In Alabama, a first-time street racing offense carries a fine of $500 and possible jail time, and the driver’s license will be suspended for a maximum period of six months.
Chief Battiste said he will continue patrols in the area to ensure the racers don’t try their luck again.
“We’ll continue to look at different strategies to address what we’re seeing,” said Battiste, “looking at ways to deter the criminal activity that takes place with racing.”
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