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Local leaders push for more state laws to crack down on drag racers and reckless drivers

A state lawmaker who led a drag racing bill to passage last year told ABC24 Memphis additional pieces of related legislation are in the works in Nashville.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Tuesday marked a new call by local lawmakers to state lawmakers to crack down harder on Memphis area reckless drivers and drag racers, who they say are terrorizing fellow drivers at all hour and all areas.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich laid out progress with more arrests, but also looked at existing challenges to crack down on those drivers and take their cars off the road.

Last July, a new state law took effect which bumped the potential max punishment for drag racing convictions to nearly a year behind bars.

Still, some city council members and the D.A. want lawmakers to go even further - a push echoed by those who witness reckless driving from their own windows.

"A great deal more needs to be done," John Montgomery said, who lives in downtown Memphis and recorded suspected drag racers in front of his home.

He said the issue of drag racing is dragging down the city's image and overall safety.

"It's unquestionable that it damages our community significantly," Montgomery added.

RELATED: Memphis City Council tackles drag racing issue

Weirich agreed Tuesday morning in an update to Memphis City Council members.

While drag racing arrests increased from four to 72 between 2019 and 2021 and reckless driving arrests went up from 594 to 790 in that same time span, Weirich said convictions are tougher because of available witnesses and other specific thresholds.

"If we can't prove that case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, that is not a case we are going to pursue further," Weirich said.

Weirich said one solution is a new state law to allow police to seize a suspected drag racer or reckless driver's car upon arrest - and not after conviction - as the rule is now.

"That, I think, would put a real big dent in this criminal behavior because that's what's most valuable to offenders," Weirich added.

RELATED: Case of off-duty MPD officer charged in deadly drag racing crash now goes to Grand Jury

City council member Chase Carlisle believed Tuesday's presentation makes a stronger case for tougher state laws cracking down on dangerous drivers.

"This isn't an issue that plagues Whitehaven or North Memphis and not East Memphis, this is an issue that plagues every community in the city and the county," Carlisle said.

State Rep. John Gillespie of Memphis, who spearheaded the new drag racing enforcement law last year, told ABC24 Tuesday he recently introduced another bill that would create a new criminal offense for aggravated reckless driving.

He said that proposal will be discussed next week in committee.

RELATED: Man busted after drag racing over 90 MPH on Memphis streets, according to police