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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 17:23 GMT
Burning rubber on the street
Street racer
Racers are usually prosecuted for dangerous driving
Type in "boy racers" to an internet search engine and you will be presented with a list of news stories telling of police and residents trying to prevent young men using a local stretch of land as a race track.

Sound familiar? Anyone who comes from a small town or village would almost certainly be able to name the area of their home town used for this purpose.

Residents in Llanelli, south west Wales, are just the latest group to ask for young drivers who meet in their town to be dealt with - although the drivers themselves say they are doing nothing wrong.

Michael Schumacher
Do boy racers aspire to emulate Schumacher?

Young car enthusiasts have been gathering nightly at North Dock in the Millennium Coastal Park, Llanelli, which councillors claim has been turned into a makeshift race track.

But why does the same driver stereotype seem to repeat itself again and again?

It does always seems to be 'boy racers' that are the problem, not girls.

They are the ones highly visible on the road - super-charged engines revving up as they wait impatiently at lights, their extra-large exhausts belching fumes, while the rain (this is Britain after all) splashes off overblown wheels supported by shiny alloys.

Professor Andy Smith, of Cardiff University's School of Psychology, said there could be a link with sensation-seeking behaviour, typically found among younger people.

"If you come in from a different topic, we tend to find it's the same group who have road accidents," he said.

However he added he did not know of any reports which had looked specifically at the subject of boy racers.

Laws

New legislation has even been introduced to combat the craze.

Under the Police Reform Act 2002, police can seize the cars of people using roads as racetracks.
Street racing scene
The film advised viewers not to try this at home
Drivers may have to pay up to 350 to get their vehicles back.

And they can face prosecution for dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of two years if the case goes to a crown court.

So what is it that drives these young men (excuse the pun) to burn rubber in improvised Grand Prix tracks? Is it their age? Hormones?

Are they trying to live the glamour of Formula One racing despite driving a souped-up Ford Escort rather than a 180mph Ferrari?

Looking at cultural indicators, there's no doubt street racing does have a cool image.

The classic racing scene comes, of course, in the film Rebel Without a Cause, starring the original rebel, James Dean.

The fact that Dean himself died in a car crash a month before the film was released only added to the aura that surrounded the film.

Stunts

Most recently, American-style street racing came to the screens in the guise of The Fast and the Furious - a film which, however, specifically warned its viewers not to try the stunts seen on screen at home.

So is street racing a social nuisance or simply youth doing what youth has always done - exactly what the older members of society don't want them to?

Or do they just like the smell of burning rubber? Answers on a hubcap, please.

See also:

04 Feb 03 | Wales
02 Jan 03 | England
15 Nov 02 | England
12 Dec 99 | UK
Internet links:


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