When I was in high school, kids with fast cars often took them out on Woodward Avenue and stomped on the gas when driving alongside other fast cars. Turns out that was illegal, regardless of how fun it looks in the Fast & Furious franchise. Not that I ever did it, of course.

Driving along a Michigan road and you just happen to be next to another car and the two of you begin accelerating apace? A police officer might stop you both for violation of MCL 257.626a, the prohibition against drag racing. Yes, even the loser can be charged.

It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any vehicle upon any highway, or any other place open to the general public, including any area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, within this state, in a speed or acceleration contest or for the purpose of making a speed record, whether from a standing start or otherwise over a measured or unmeasured distance, or in a drag race as herein defined.

This is a misdemeanor and not just a civil infraction like your typical traffic ticket. And, the statute goes a bit farther than you might expect:

Persons rendering assistance in any manner to such competitive use of vehicles shall be equally charged as participants.

You know, like the flag girl in the movies, or people who might be watching out for the fuzz. (Look it up, kids.) There are stories in Michigan of police cracking down on street racing and sweeping up spectators and charging them all for “rendering assistance” because they were spectating.

You do not have to be speeding to be guilty of drag racing. If you and I were to leave a stoplight in separate cars and accelerate right up to the speed limit, we’d be guilty of drag racing if we were doing so “in a competitive attempt to out-distance each other over a common selected course.”

In Michigan, a conviction for drag racing will earn you four points in a scenario where 12 will probably cost you your license. You can’t phone this one in either. There is a mandatory court appearance because this is a misdemeanor. Do you want to plead Not Guilty? You can go to trial and even demand a jury if you want. But how many of your “peers” will look kindly on you and your lead foot? Either way, a guilty on this one could put you in jail for 90 days, cost hundreds in fines and court costs and your license can be suspended. And that misdemeanor will go on your permanent record. Dare to consider what will happen to your insurance rates when they hear you’ve been convicted of drag racing?

And just to add to the fun, some cities have passed their own ordinances to pile onto the fun the state was having. Get pulled over drag racing in Flint and you will have to pay $900 to get your vehicle back after they impound it.

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So, my advice to you is to leave the drag racing to the Hollywood pros, the ones who know how to bangshift a 17-Speed Manual in a Stanced Turbo-Hemi Blown Street Rod with NOS and Dual-Intakes through a 10-second quarter. We did that back when we were kids - I mean, I knew people who did - but we were dumb, and lucky we never got caught.

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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, almost exclusively in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation.

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