Families of crash victims join push to stop illegal street racing: ‘Innocent people lose their lives’

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SAN DIEGO — Two women are sharing their pain surrounding illegal street racing as agencies team up with the hope of cutting down on the dangerous activity.

The new push comes as California saw a “tremendous” increase in illegal street racing since the onset of the pandemic. California Highway Patrol responded to more than 25,000 calls involving illegal street racing statewide in 2020. It’s an increase of more than 3,500 calls compared to the year before, the Automobile Club of Southern California says.

The decision to street race can be deadly for many, including other drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

In June, a man accused of driving on the wrong side of a Chula Vista roadway during an apparent high-speed street race triggered a crash that killed Martha Villalobos Romo, 57, and injured her two grandchildren, according to police.

And in March, a 17-year-old boy and 21-year-old University of San Diego student died after a high-speed, head-on crash as a group of teens left a high school football game, police said.

AAA is partnering with CHP and Street Racing Kills to sponsor educational campaigns to deter street racing and provide opportunities to move them off public roads and onto closed racetracks.

“After I lost my niece, one of the things I promised her was that I was going to keep her memory alive and I did not want her death be in vain,” Lori Argumedo said.

Argumedo met Street Racing Kills Founder Lili Trujillo Puckett at a townhall and learned they shared the same passion: educating youth and other drivers about the dangers of illegal street racing.

Puckett said her 16-year-old daughter Valentina was in the back seat of a car on Dec. 7, 2013, when the driver crashed, resulting in Valentina’s death.

“Had he not taken the challenge of a street race — he was a week shy of 18 — my daughter would be walking this earth with me right now,” Puckett said.

She and Argumedo are sharing the painful stories of losing their loved ones in hopes of stopping another parent from losing a child.

“Our stories are the reality of what happens when they make those decisions. There’s deadly consequences,” Argumedo said, adding that it also affects family of the person who chooses to street race.

“The man who killed my niece was sentenced to a 7-year prison sentence for felony hit and run and also manslaughter.”

The group is also urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 3, which is currently on his desk awaiting final approval. AB 3, authored by Assembly member Vince Fong of Kern County, would crack down on illegal street racing by allowing courts to issue a driver’s license suspension for up to six months for participating in street racing and street takeovers.

The governor has until Oct. 10 to either veto or sign the bill into law.

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