Getting ticket for "racing" while not speeding

On a recent episode of “Cops” I watched as an officer pulled over two cars that had raced each other from a stop light. Both drivers were surprised and a bit embarrassed as the cop scolded them like children.

One driver told the cop “But we weren’t speeding.” The officer said “I’m not giving you a ticket for speeding. I’m giving you a ticket for racing.”

What is the definition of “racing”? Is it simply up to the officer’s discretion (you know it when you see it)? It seems to me that, aside from any obvious interaction between the drivers, and as long as nobody burned rubber, a traffic-light race would consist of two cars accelerating faster than normal up to the speed limit.

Sounds like a good law to have, but it sounds like it could be quite arbitrary in its enforcement. Is there a legal limit to acceleration?

I think up here in ontario that would probably fall into either dangerous driving or careless driving ,depending on what the officer wanted to tag you with.


That also can be quite arbitrary - some white-collar guy got cited for speeding and dangerous driving after going 130 in an 80 zone (I’ve been known to nudge 100 myself on that stretch, especially that one day I joined a group following a cop car ;)). IIRC, he got the dangerous driving charge dropped after arguing the road was dry and clear sans traffic, and his car was a recently tuned-up Lexus.

What gets me is they typically mark it as a “contest of speed”. Drag racing isn’t a contest of speed. It’s a contest of acceleration. What’s up with that?

I forget the name of the Law, but I can find it if I have to.
In Florida, anything considered “testing the ability of the vehicle” can be ticketed. So you don’t even need another car next to you. You don’t have to be competing with another car, just accelerating to the speed limited faster than is prudent.
Also, there is a “false start” statute as well. You have to “safely” bring your car into motion. So peeling out and such can be ticketed as well.

It’s no weirder (in these guys’ minds at least) than “contest of audio system”, “contest of paint job”, “contest of exhaust noise”, “contest of rubber smoke produced”, etc etc. The push-ya-back-in-your-seat “launch effect” (ie. off the line acceleration) is sought after by a certain sector of the market…

The car manufacturers know this too. In the early 70s, there was an Australian-built Ford muscle car (the Falcon GTHO Phase III). When you took a test drive, you’d sit in the passenger seat first, and the salesman would drive. He’d put an A$20 note on the dash, and if you could reach your arm out and get it under the first initial acceleration, it was yours. A decent sum thirty years ago too. So it is very important for some people.

Even for me, I appreciate acceleration more than final top speed (which is illegal anyway). Can be useful in traffic. I’m not about to test it to its limits at the lights though.

This sounds like it could apply to trying to park in a spot that may be too small for your car. Just further proof to a theory of mine that laws are now set up so that people doing ‘normal’ things can be stopped for no reason by authorities.

If they were at a stop light, and the cop, with a camera crew in tow, pulled them over, they were racing via acceleration. Seen it a million times, done it a few. It’s obvious when you see it. You can’t just peel out when the light turns green to race the guy next to you.

See, that’s what I’m getting at. Where’s the line?
If a person just happens to like to accelerate quickly, no rubber is burned, no other car is in the vicinity (except for the conceiled cruiser in the bushes), the officer can simply say that the acceleration was “faster than is prudent” and give a ticket.

I guess there is really no better way to limit acceleration since we don’t have accelerometers in our cars, but it seems to leave an awful lot of room for the officer to selectively enforce the law.

faster than is prudent.

what the hell does that mean?
I could understand if someone was on the gas hard in a parking lot or in heavey traffic but from light to light? my B.S. O Meter is lighting up pretty hard on this one.

Yep. It’s dangerous on city streets. Some people can do it without any danger whatsoever–but no one has a license to do so. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, it’s illegal–mostly because of the pile ups created by boneheads would could not do it safely.

I got a ticket for drag racing. The cop had seen us racing, but wasn’t in a position to stop us right then. He pulled me over a few minutes later and gave me the ticket. When I went to pay it, I griped to the clerk that I thought it was a bogus charge (I knew I was guilty) and she told me that the drag racing ticket was only $25 (Texas, 1982) and that any speeding ticket I would have gotten would have been more expensive. I payed it without any more complaining.


But if there is a law involved then they’re not stopping you for no reason are they?
Spitting on the sidewalk laws are neccessary anyway for bringing in suspects for questioning when there may not be quite enough evidence to do so otherwise.

jimpatro We are talking about:

in this case, pretty vague, it could mean almost anything including going over a pothole or driving around one.

In the UK, I believe “racing on the highway” is a specific crime. And yes, it comes down to eyewitness evidence of driver behaviour, unless there’s something else such as video footage etc. But if you want to contest it, it’s going to be a full court case.

Hmmm… my traction control stops my tires from peeling out, but I’m never “testing” the speed of my car; I know exactly what it will do. And except for a few cars, I know who exactly whom I can beat and can’t beat, in general. So there’s never a race, either. I habitually* floor my car from a stop. If some jerk decides to race me and I’m just driving normally, I hope to heck they don’t give me a ticket. FWIW, people I know who’ve really gotten “contest of speed tickets” have had other mitigating factors, like burning out their tires.

*No, this doesn’t mean 100% of the time. In a 25mph residential neighborhood, there’s no point. If I’m behind someone, I can’t. If I know that I’ll hit the next red light, I won’t. If it’s dangerous, or a granny is crossing the street, or any other consideration makes it imprudent, then I won’t. I am a reasonable person after all.

Here’s a quick link to the Texas racing statute. Basically, it prohibits participating in “a race, a vehicle speed competition or contest, an acceleration competition or contest, a test of physical endurance of the operator of a vehicle, or in connection with a drag race, an exhibition of vehicle speed or acceleration or to make a vehicle speed record.” And there’s a whole bunch of definitions of what those terms mean. Depending on the circumstances, it can be a class B misdemeanor (up to 180 days in jail and/or $2,000 fine) up to a second degree felony (two to twenty years in prison and/or $10,000 fine).

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1182 provides:

Yeah, great idea. We need more laws saying police officers can arrest you even though you commited no crime.

Excellent point, citizen. Other useful laws are those against driving where you don’t belong, as well as those for failing to provide adequate information to a peace officer.