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Georgia governor introduces statewide legislation on reckless street racing

The bill aims to punish those who organize and engage in street racing, drag laying, or other related activities.

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, flanked by law enforcement officials, introduced new legislation on Friday morning that tackles reckless street racing. 

The governor addressed House Bill 534 in a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol. The bill aims to punish those who organize and engage in street racing, drag laying, or other related activities. It also expands what could be considered reckless and dangerous driving.

Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) is spearheading efforts on HB 534, which would call for the suspension of a driver's license for any person convicted of reckless stunt driving.

According to the legislation, the first conviction within a five-year period would result in a 12-month suspension, a fine of up to $1,500 and prison time of up to a year. The convicted offender could apply for early reinstatement with the Department of Driver Services, but they would have to pay a $210 fee. 

A second conviction within that timeframe would result in an 18-month license suspension with a restoration fee of $310, along with a fine of up to $3,000 and up to a year in prison. The legislation states that a third conviction would merit a habitual violator tag, which would result in an indefinite suspension. 

A third conviction within ten years would also carry a felony tag and be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or one to five years in prison. The vehicle involved the reckless driving charge could also be impounded by the state, per the legislation. 

Lawmakers said the penalties listed in HB 534 would put reckless driving on par with driving under the influence. 

In recent months around metro Atlanta, police departments have reported an increase in drivers "laying drag" or illegally drag racing on city streets and highways.

The trend has become a topic for state and city leaders, as they attempt to crack down on it.  In fact, State Senator Emmanuel Jones filed a bill targeting reckless driving following the death of an innocent mother in DeKalb County back in January. Her family claims it was a case of illegal street racing. However, authorities the told 11Alive last month they didn't have any evidence of drag racing at that time.

State Senator Emmanuel Jones' bill would make it a misdemeanor to promote, advertise, or attend an event where drivers are laying drag, or illegally street racing. The bill also calls for having special "high-performance" license plates required for cars made with or modified to have 650 horsepower or more. 

Under Jones' proposed SB10, laying drag would result in 8 points on a driver's license. In Georgia 15 points within a 24-month span leads to a license suspension

Laying drag and illegal street racing would also be considered "high and aggravated misdemeanors," with fines of up to $2,500 and cars would be impounded at the driver's expense until any legal case is resolved. 

Sandy Springs also recently passed an ordinance addressing street racing.

Lawmakers told 11Alive a more complete version of the bill with compromises could be ready by Crossover Day in March, and the bill would get to Governor Kemp's desk by the end of the legislative session.

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