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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May 2008, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Boy racers take over city in Poland
By Tamasin Ford
Newsbeat reporter in Poland

Speeding videos on YouTube, screeching tyres late at night, pimped up vehicles and nasty accidents. The problem of so called boy racers tearing up the streets affects towns and cities all over the UK and abroad. It was becoming such a problem in one city in Poland, police have teamed up with the illegal street racers themselves to do something about it.

Cars in Lodz, Poland


Eighty miles from the capital Warsaw lies Lodz, famous in Poland for its film school but famous amongst locals for its illegal street races.

Magda says she used to meet other illegal street racers most evenings.

She said: "Every night when we can race on the streets, it's really really nice. We can meet together and race together."

Street racer Anna
When it was illegal it was in strange places, the streets were in bad conditions. Now it's very good
Street racer Anna
Hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, would turn up to secret street racing events around the city.

Most would finish with a police raid along with several fines for the drivers.

Sergeant Kinga Krzeszewska from Lodz police says it was a big problem.

She said: "The speeds were really high, sometimes 250kph (155mph). It was a great danger not only for the drivers but also for the public."

She said there were no safety barriers and no way of checking whether the drivers had been drinking or taking drugs.

"A lot of the spectators were as young as 10 or even seven years without any adult supervision," she added.

Alternative action

The fines and police raids didn't work so officers took a different course of action.

They got together with the illegal racers and for one night only, every month, they cordon off part of the city then let drivers loose on the streets to go as fast as they like.

Line-up of cars in Lodz
Lodz is a city in Poland around 80 miles away from the capital Warsaw
Anyone can race, as long as their car works and is legal on the roads and the driver lives in or around Lodz.

The idea is to get the fastest speed over a quarter of a mile of road.

Martin used to race on the streets around Lodz at night.

He's now one of the organisers of what is called Street Legal, Europe's first legal street race event.

He said: "All the people who are involved are young people, the ones who used to be involved in illegal street racing. Now they are doing something completely different."

System working

Drivers get to put their foot down, the spectators are safe and now Sergeant Kinga Krzeszewska says the police are happy.

"From our knowledge we've got 80% less illegal racing in Lodz right now," she said.

The start line in Lodz
UK police forces say there are no serious problems with street racing
"Plus we have more spectators than the illegal races. Sometimes even 10,000 people come to see our race."

So is there a chance of something like this happening in the UK?

Apparently not. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) in England and Wales say there isn't a problem with widespread illegal racing.

It says to encourage competitive driving on public roads would lead to more casualties.

Police chiefs in Scotland say they have no plans to introduce legal street racing either.

But back in Lodz, there is no doubt Street Legal has gone down well, at least with the drivers, like Anna in her Audi.

She said: "When it was illegal it was in strange places, the streets were in bad conditions.

"Now it's very good, I'm glad they did this."



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