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New Tennessee law aims to put the brakes on illegal drag racing

The news law will make drag racing a Class A Misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This year cities in Tennessee, like Memphis, finally got the state law they wanted to crack down on drag racing. 

Effective July 1, it will now be a Class A misdemeanor with a punishment of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. 

Uptown neighbor Tanja Mitchell said drag racing is still an issue in her quiet, residential neighborhood, despite recently installed speed bumps. 

"It’s only a matter of time before a car loses control and there’s an accident," Mitchell said. 

She and several neighbors have met with city leaders and the Memphis Police Department to find a solution to this problem. Mitchell hopes the new law will put the brakes on drag racing. 

"We are hopeful the drivers will take the heat and realize this a public safety issue," Mitchell said.

Downtown neighbor John Montgomery captured video of a drag racer shooting a gun outside his window near Riverside Drive and I-40. He's worked with MPD and the City on finding a way to stop this dangerous activity, but he thinks MPD still needs to do more. 

"I believe they are not doing as much as they should," Montgomery said. 

Montgomery also worries about how well the law can work if the police can't chase drag racers. 

"My biggest concern about that is that we catch such a small percentage of the people who are actually drag racing and speeding," Montgomery said. 

Colonel Keith Watson with MPD said it will be a challenge with the department's "no pursuit" policy. 

"If that vehicle refuses to stop from doing donuts, drag racing that we’ve mentioned the aggressive acts the officers have 11 months and 29 days to apply charges to identify and hold accountable that person," Watson said. 

Watson said it may also be difficult to identify some of the drivers. 

"We’ve seen a wide variety of vehicle registration including stolen vehicles in that equation," Watson said. 

So far, MPD has issued more than 4,000 traffic citations since the start of the year, which it said is a significant increase from last year. 

MPD said it has upped patrols in neighborhoods where drag racing is a problem. 

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