By Laura Garcia
Golden West College student Jessica Dayoan was riding shotgun in her brother Jorel’s souped-up car on her way to an afternoon biology class in April when an impromptu street race broke out.
Driving a Toyota MR2, Jorel raced with Army veteran Joshua Lautherboren’s Dodge truck on a straightaway before losing control of his vehicle, crashing into oncoming traffic and killing Jessica on the spot, Westminster Police said.
Residents and commuters have grown increasingly concerned with the dangers of street racing, prompting Santa Ana Police to go undercover in an attempt to deter the sometimes fatal races.
“Street racing is a big concern. It not only places those participating in danger but also others in the area,’’ said Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas. “We take a very aggressive approach and enforce all applicable California Vehicle Code statutes and conduct undercover operations to identify those breaking the law.’’
This year a 16-year-old boy was involved in a street race that killed a 46-year-old man in Rancho Cucamonga.
Angelica Contreras, 16, was killed in a street-racing crash in early June.
Her body was found on a riverbank eight hours later.
“If the problem is getting serious they should build tracks. Kids don’t race with the intention to get killed,’’ said Ming Nguyen, manager of Santa Ana’s #1 Auto Body & Repair.
Other cities have also expressed concern with street racing and have proposed legal outlets. Advocates in Los Angeles pushed to reopen the vacant Terminal Island raceway.
The racers tend to skew young.
“Some of the kids here, I know the cars they drive, I know they’re fixed. It’s not grandma and grandpa racing. It’s the students,’’ automotive department instructor George Moreno said.
Though participants and spectators are not limited to an age group, it can include teenagers who are not old enough to drive.
“I race because I feel restricted when I live my daily life but when I race it gives a way out,” said Martin, a 15-year-old racer who requested anonymity.
Most illegal street races do not attract large numbers of spectators. Some races are spontaneous. Others are planned. Car clubs continuously warn against illegal street racing.
There is a common misclassification between illegal street races and legal ones like drag, or off-road.
The difficulty of catching drivers in the act hinders the effort to reduce incidents of the crime.
“Most vehicle violations are either infractions or misdemeanors,” says Rojas, “Unless someone is injured.”
In such cases, violators could face anywhere from 30 days to six months in jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines.
Dayoan and Lautherboren were both convicted of felonies for their respective roles in Jessica’s death. Both are on five years probation.