The Tennessee State Senate unanimously approved legislation targeting organized street racing.

State Senator John Stevens’ (R-Huntingdon) SB1673 was approved by the Senate on February 28. It was engrossed on March 1. It now sits on the House desk for consideration. Prior to the floor vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended the bill for passage on February 22.

SB1673 adds a new offense to the Tennessee code, aggravated reckless driving. If enacted into law, this bill would make this new offense a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 11 months and 29 days in jail, fines up to $2,500, or both.

State Representative John Gillespie (R-Memphis) is the sponsor of the House companion bill HB1661, which last saw action on February 16. That version was “placed behind the budget.” Sources tell The Tennessee Star that further action in the House will not occur until the budget process is completed.

When the bills were first introduced in mid-January, Rep. Gillespie told WKRN, that he was pushing the legislation because he was hearing that constituents were not feeling safe. “I’m hearing from moms and dads that are going to the grocery store and not feeling safe. And we’re not talking about taking the interstate here, we’re talking about on a two-lane road to the center of town. That’s just unacceptable.” he said. “I believe that one of my basic responsibilities is public safety and making sure that the community is safe from criminals, and this is a criminal behavior and it cannot be tolerated.”

Organized street racing is a recognized problem is various parts of Tennessee, including both highways and other roads.

The Star previously reported that the legislation amends Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 55, Chapter 10, Part 2 by adding:

(a) A person commits aggravated reckless driving who: (1) Commits the offense of reckless driving, as defined in § 55-10-205; and (2) Intentionally or knowingly impedes traffic upon a public street, highway, alley, parking lot, or driveway, or on the premises of a shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex, or any other premises accessible to motor vehicles that are generally frequented by the public at large.

(b) (1) A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor. (2) In addition to the penalty authorized by subdivision (b)(1), the court may asses a fine of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) to be collected as provided in § 55-10-412(b) and distributed as provided in § 55-10-412(c).

Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-10-412, is also amended by deleting subsection (b) and adding:

(b) The proceeds from the increased portion of the fines for driving under the influence of an intoxicant provided for in chapter 948 of the Public Acts of 1994, the additional fines for reckless driving, under § 55-10-205(d)(2), and the additional fines for aggravated driving, under SECTION 1(b)(2) shall be collected by the respective court clerks and then deposited in a dedicated county fund. This fund shall not revert to the county general fund at the end of a fiscal year but shall remain for the purposes set out in this section. For the purposes of this section, the “increased portion of the fines for driving under the influence of an intoxicant” is the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) on a first offense, the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of five hundred dollars ($500) on a second offense, and the first one hundred dollars ($100) collected after the initial collection of one thousand dollars ($1,000) on a third or subsequent offense.

The legislation would take effect on July 1, 2022 if enacted into law.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTR.
Photo “John Stevens” by Senator John Stevens.