Council Exploring Ways To Reduce Drag Racing On City Streets

Jun 10, 2021

Members of the Tulsa City Council on Wednesday discussed possible actions they and the Tulsa Police Department can take to prevent or discourage illegal street racing on the Broken Arrow Expressway and other roadways across the city.

Councilor Kara Joy McKee sponsored the agenda item for the council's urban and economic development committee meeting in response to constituent complaints she said she has received and seen on social media.

"I've seen a lot of rumors flying, folks saying, 'TPD is dropping the ball, or the [Oklahoma] Highway Patrol is,'" McKee said before introducing TPD Capts. Shane Tuell and Karen Tipler to answer the council's questions.

"It's so frustrating because you have a thrill-seeking group that is very hard to police," Tuell said. "You move them from one area and then they'll go to another area, and another area. It's really tough when you try to do traffic enforcement on individuals who seek a thrill, because running from police becomes a thrill."

"Education and awareness is the biggest thing," Tuell said. "What I think a lot of these thrill-seekers -- if we can continue to call them that, because that's what they are -- what they don't realize is their actions won't get them a citation, ultimately. If they hurt or seriously injure or kill someone, they're looking at serious charges," including murder.

"These are lifechanging decisions," Tuell said.

"Death is permanent," Tipler added.

Tuell said that in certain cases of "aggressive speeding," police can arrest a driver and impound their vehicle. 

Councilor Crista Patrick provided the perspective of someone from "a long line of racers," telling her colleagues she has family members who race or raced, both legally and illegally.

"Racers are going to race," Patrick said. "They're thrill-seekers. They spend a lot of money on their cars. So to expect them to not race is unreasonable. Or, it's not unreasonable for the public but it's unpractical. As someone raised with a drag racer, once speed is in your blood, it's in your blood."

Patrick said she had been working with the owners of the Tulsa Speedway, TPD and prosecutors to develop a "citation mitigation" program for racers that would allow and encourage racers to drive only on the track.

"If we can get the big dogs out to the track, the rest will follow, because it's about beating the best when you're a racer," Patrick said. "They can do their racing, they can get their thrill-seeking, but in a safe manner."

Tuell said he wholeheartedly supported that idea, saying it was similar to city investment in skateparks to discourage skateboarding elsewhere.