Methods to prevent the worrying new trends of ‘street racing’ and ‘tuning’ were discussed at a meeting this week at the Transport Council. The new ‘hobbies’, which are currently in-vogue among 20 to 25-year-old thrill-seekers with a passion for speed, have hit the headlines recently due to a horrific accident in Palmela last week, in which three young people died and five were badly injured.
A 22-year-old with no driving licence was deemed responsible for the accident and is now in prison awaiting trial for three counts of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and driving without a licence. Unfortunately, this trend, which started in the United States and Japan, has also spread to the Algarve and police recently discovered a dangerous street race taking place at Parque das Cidades, in Faro.
For now, the police authorities and the General Directorate for Vehicles (Direcção-Geral de Viação) can only pledge to increase their inspections of cars with modifications. However, when the new, tougher, road code comes into force in 2005, the authorities will be able to confiscate any vehicle they suspect of having illegal alterations. But, until the new code comes into force, the authorities can only confiscate the documents from suspicious vehicles, giving the driver temporary documentation and making a date for the car to undergo a full technical inspection. Obviously, the inspection cannot be made on the spot, which leaves open the possibility of the ’tuning fan’ removing any parts from the car which are illegal.
Meanwhile, at the periodical obligatory inspections, it was discussed that attention must be paid to any aspects which can be associated with illegal racing such as particular alterations to the power of the engines. Rogério Pinheiro, assistant director of the Direcção-Geral Viação, said: “It is also very important to increase the patrols in the areas where the illegal racing takes place as the simple presence of a patrol car can act as a deterrent.”
Secrecy of race organisers
The most difficult thing it seems for the police is finding out when and where the illegal races are going to take place. The organisers are extremely secretive and set up the races on the internet, in chat rooms, and often the details are changed afterwards via text messaging. Betting is involved and the organisers even have their own security teams to watch out for the authorities, so that they are not caught breaking the law.
Races on Vasco da Gama bridge
Sometimes, according to GNR Officer Lourenço da Silva, who daily checks the websites and chat rooms most commonly used by street racers, it is not always possible to stop a race in progress. “We can see cars travelling at a very high speed on the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon, but we cannot stop them without putting other innocent lives at risk. We take down the number plates and report them for dangerous driving,” he said. According to Commissioner Alexandre Coimbra, spokesman for the PSP, it is important that more random inspections are made in areas close to where races are known to take place. The authorities must act intelligently and use any legal means at their disposal to stop these dangerous activities.”