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This story in the Los Angeles Times today describes a troubling new trend in the age-old problem of drivers who race their cars on public streets.

Increasingly, the story says, drivers are starting to race during daylight hours and on crowded public highways, a practice that has become known as “cutting the gap.”

San Diego is referenced twice in the story, which states that three teenagers died while racing on a senior trip to San Diego in May, and that two UCSD students died in a racing incident in January.

Here’s some insight from the story, which quotes 17-year-old Trais Hand, a senior from Riverside, who served 106 days in juvenile hall for killing a passerby during an impromptu race last race:

“It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment, a heat-of-the-moment type thing, and I ended up making a bad choice,” Hand said. “I didn’t intend on harming anybody.”

Hand was stopped at a light in his 2001 Jetta when a friend pulled up on his right with the window down.

“He said something like, ‘My car’s faster than yours,’” Hand said. And then it was on.

The two cars made a right at the light and then started to race on Olivewood Avenue.

“I just lost control,” he said. The car smashed into a light pole, the air bag deployed and the car slid 100 feet, hitting and killing 38-year-old (Reyna) De Leon, who was in a wheelchair.

Det. Gary Hassen, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department, said the SDPD disbanded its unit that dealt specifically with street racing about a year ago. Hassen said the problem of street racing has slackened off of late on San Diego’s streets.

“It’s still out there, but I don’t think it’s as predominant as it used to be because we were pretty aggressive at going after it,” Hassen said

“When the chief sees the numbers going up again, they’ll probably bring it back,” he said of the specialized unit.

WILL CARLESS

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