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CITY GIRL: Time to deal with the street racing menace

Last weekend, three young people died in a horrible road accident in Arusha.

It is alleged that the youngsters were engaging in street racing in which two competing cars crashed, killing the drivers, a passenger and onlookers.

The family of one of the victims has come out stating that their son was not involved in a street race. Car event organisers or “petrol heads” — as they like to call themselves — have also come out guns blazing.

There was no street race, they say. Just a bunch of young people from Tanzania and Kenya meeting for a “bush barbeque” dubbed Arusha Drive 3.0 (pronounced three-point-oh) in which one of the drivers made an abrupt right turn and crashed into another car in what was an unfortunate accident.

Everyone has vehemently denied that there was a street race, never mind that the accident bears all the makings of a street race.

The event was hyped on social media, Twitter, to be specific, through a Twitter account @PetroholicsKE or PetroholicAnonymous. Using hashtags such as #PARacing, the Twitter user spent most of last week reminding fans to show up for the event, even counting down days to the event.

BLUE CARS

Now, I am not a petrol head and over the past couple of years I have been leery of comingling with the petrol heads following an explosive column about some blue cars.

However, this is no longer a laughing matter. It has become a matter of life and death.

When the victims are buried and when we come back to our senses, I hope it will be time to finally stop lying to ourselves and face the truth.

Underground motorsports, street racing and other childish games that involve speeding cars are happening. These events typically attract the young — most of them driving speedy cars like the Mitsubishi EVO X, Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart and, well, Subaru.

Over Easter, we lost those three youngsters. In 2015, popular street racer Amir Mohammed, one of the pioneer directors of the famous Kiamburing TT, died when his Nissan Skyline GTR (R34) collided head-in into his friend Jay Soni’s Mercedes AMG, rolled and caught fire. Amir died on the spot.

According to their website, Kiamburing TT (TT stands for Time Trial) started in 2013. The organisers promised a thrilling experience, similar to that one of Pikes Peak —apparently, a very popular car racing event in the US.

Kiamburing TT, which seems to have since been discontinued, attracted the participation of drivers who drove at speeds as high as 200kph across a 10 kilometre stretch in Karirama, Kiambu County.

BLATANT DEATH WISH

They drove at these speeds without roll cages, harnesses or even impact padding, making Kiamburing TT a blatant death wish. To demonstrate this, a video on YouTube posted in 2014 shows a young man driving at a dangerous speed, shifting gears every few seconds.

The video is captured through a camera fixed inside the car. When you look closely, you see spectators — including unassuming villagers — awed at the speed of the car. The nearly nine minutes video titled Kiamburing TT 2014 Driver’s Eye is heart wrenching to watch, you cannot help but think of the safety of the driver, the spectators and the villagers. Back to Amir, the street racer who died in 2015. After trawling the Internet, I bumped into a statement from the Club TT Motorsports’ attempt to clarify that Amir did not die while racing — as there was no race that day — but instead died in a road accident on his way to meet a friend.

It was reported that Amir died while “practising” but the club refuted these claims and insisted that; “This was purely two friends who had intended to meet and discuss the prevailing setup of Mr Mohamed’s GTR”.

REGULATION

There is nothing wrong with motorsports. But when it comes to a sport as sensitive as this, safety must come first. Regulation is another. Who approves these street racing events and are there EMT services available when accidents happen?

Are these participants —whose only qualification to enter the race is the love for speed — certified and their medical records cleared? Let us not live in denial.

Denying that there were no races to escape responsibility is a total lack of class and disrespect for the dead. If people died while racing, let us call it what it is, and let these deaths be lessons for us and the authorities to finally put an end to this madness in the name of “street racing”.