Yorktown could be the next Westchester municipality to discourage drag racing by allowing police to seize a person’s vehicle if caught in an illegal speed contest.
Yonkers resident James Nolan appeared before the Yorktown Town Board last Tuesday proposing legislation that would put a halt to drag racing in the community. Nolan’s brother Michael was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015 which stemmed from a Yonkers drag race in which he was not participating.
Since his death, the Nolan family has become the impetus for a campaign to address the dangers of drag racing and the nuisance it causes in different communities. The City of Yonkers passed a law in 2017 allowing police to seize the vehicles of those caught drag racing and charge the driver and event organizers with a misdemeanor.
White Plains recently passed a similar law.
“This is something that has worked drastically in Yonkers to cut down drag racing,” Nolan said at the Oct. 13 work session. “This will help protect and save so many lives of the burden me and my family feel every single day for something that isn’t a sport or a hobby; this is a dangerous and careless act.”
Nolan added that with several sanctioned tracks available for driver’s to race, the act of drag racing disrupts the quality of life for everybody in the community it happens in. Since May, law enforcement in Yonkers have written over 1,400 summonses and seized over 10 cars, Nolan said.
Last Thursday, Westchester County Police arrested 19-year-old New York City resident Joshua Cabrera after he was caught in an illegal speed contest just after midnight on the Saw Mill River Parkway near Palmer Road in Yonkers. He was charged with unauthorized speed contest, a misdemeanor, and speeding, unsafe lane change and insufficient tail lamps, and had his 2008 Nissan Altima impounded.
A drag race is considered a competition between two road vehicles – usually taking place over a quarter mile straight track from a standing start, with the race often determining which vehicle has better acceleration. For many years drag racing has been a problem on major streets in Yonkers because of the straight roadways, but has continued to spread to northern Westchester communities, according to Nolan.
While not necessarily an issue in Yorktown, Police Chief Robert Noble said he’s dealt with drag racing events twice in the last year with hundreds of cars coming from out of town late at night to race. He agreed a law deterring the act would make town streets safer for residents.
“Having a law like this on the books gives us another tool that we may be able to utilize to keep our roads a little bit safer,” Noble said. “We’re all for it. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use it but if we do, we got it in our pocket and we won’t be afraid to use it.”
Town Supervisor Matt Slater, along with the remainder of the board, agreed to draft a resolution mirroring Yonkers’ law to vote on at a later meeting.
Yonkers law authorizes its police department to seize vehicles that are engaging in illegal drag racing, allowing the city to use the confiscated cars for city or police business, or auction them. The law also targets racers in cars or motorcycles with amplified motors or accelerators.
Councilman Tom Diana suggested Yorktown’s law include a provision that would restrict seized vehicles from being allowed on the streets if bought at auction. Once they’re sold, they cannot be registered again as it was, Diana urged.
“Unauthorized speed contests on public highways does nothing more than create a major hazard for the innocent individuals transgressing from point A to point B,” Diana said. “This gives our local law enforcement the ability to just get right in there and get it done.”