BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Street racing has become a problem in the Birmingham metro area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Street racing resulted in a fatal accident on Arkadelphia Road in March, killing 52-year-old Brandy Lee Moore Ballard. Police say 22-year-old Carmesia Flannigan crashed into Ballard while she was street racing. Flannigan then fled the scene and has since been charged with murder, leaving the scene and possession of a controlled substance.
Videos of street racing Birmingham have been posted on numerous social media websites, such as YouTube. People who live downtown say they hear the roaring engines every now and then. Advocacy groups like Street Racing Kills out of California say it has grown across the country during the pandemic, and they warn people the dangerous hobby can ruin lives forever.
“You never think it’s going to happen to you,” Street Racing Kills founder Lili Trujillo said.
During Flannigan’s recent bond hearing, members of Ballard’s family were in attendance. Her sister, Robin Hancock, told CBS 42 Ballard was both a dedicated caregiver and a loving sister.
“Because she was a very good person and would help anybody in this world,” Hancock said.
“We spoke each and every day on the phone. No matter good or bad. But we talked each and every day. We were each other’s rock,” Hancock said.
Hancock believes Ballard’s fatal accident could have been avoided.
“And she really didn’t deserve to die like this,” she said.
Trujillo said families across the country have felt the pain of losing a loved on to street racing crashes and that it’s a pandemic of its own.
“I think it’s out of control. It was just in one place. A little bit here, a little bit there, now, it’s everywhere,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo said she understands the pain these families experience. In December 2013, she lost her 16-year-old daughter Valentina D’Alessandro.
“And he ran into her, then against the fence. And my daughter Valentina ended up just hanging from the window of the Mustang,” she said.
Trujillo started the non-profit group to educate young drivers about the dangers of illegal street racing and the harm it can have on local communities.
“These are the future drivers. If we start this from scratch, you know, educate them about the dangers of illegal street racing, we can get some place with them,” she said.
The Birmingham Police Department has taken measures to crack down on street racing. Last month, police wrote 490 citations, made four arrests, as well as recovered four firearms and a stolen vehicle. Police credit covert operations like Star 1 Air Support and community help for the recent decline.
“That really attributed to cut down our intel on where these groups meet up at. As well as what some of their methods were of operations in terms of cultural street racing,” Sgt. Rodarius Maudlin said.
Trujillo said more law changes and education will help continue to decrease street racing.
“We are saving lives when we talk to a young one, and some people will get it. But there is going to be more. We have got a lot of work on our shoulders that we have to do,” she said.
Both law enforcement and advocacy groups are encouraging people to report street racing when they see it.
“Because you don’t want it to happen to you,” Trujillo said.
To report any street racing, contact the Birmingham Police Department through their BPD app. For more information on the dangers of street racing throughout the United States, visit Street Racing Kills’ website by clicking here.