Citrus Heights resident Barbara Keck knows firsthand about the consequences of reckless driving. The car driven by her 20-year-old daughter Lesley Ann Suthard was hit head on by a wrong-way driver on Highway 65 near Roseville. "She was killed instantly from multiple blunt force trauma. Her airbag deployed but neither the airbag nor the seatbelt would have saved her because her seat came loose and was pushed back in the car to the passenger side."
Since the accident happened three years ago, Keck has devoted herself to making people more aware of the dangers of reckless driving. "For months after Leslie died I just would stand in the backyard and think and look at the stars and cry and I kept asking not why she was taken because we go when our time is up but I kept asking why she was here at all because 20 years is a short, short lifetime and so the only thing I came up with is that she was supposed to energize people to do something about the reckless driving that’s out there."
Keck started a website: L-CARD.org, which stands for Lesley’s Crusade Against Reckless Drivers where people can anonymously report dangerous motorists. The information is passed on to the Citrus Heights Police Department. But it hasn’t been easy for Keck to get her safe driving message across, especially when young people are inundated with pop culture images of fast cars. "They’re very interested in having fun and that the car is a recreational vehicle and it’s not. It’s just transportation."
The kinds of cars that street racers drive are usually highly-modified Hondas and Acuras. "This is a nitrous oxide system."
Joe Gibson is with the state Bureau of Automotive Repair. "In order to get more power out of an engine you must use more fuel and nitrous oxide carries the oxygen for the fuel and under the hood they have solenoids that are actuated at wide open throttle and depending on the configuration of the system they can get an instant horse power boost in 35 to 150, 200 horse power."
Gibson and other technical experts with the state will be helping train law enforcement officers around the state on how to recognize cars that have been illegally modified. It’s part of the state’s new multi-Million dollar crackdown on street racing.
California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Secretary Sunny Wright McPeak made the announcement Wednesday.
"We will not tolerate excessive speed and street racing on our local streets and on our highways. We, with the California Highway Patrol, the Sacramento City Police, the Sheriff’s Department, we are saying to you do not speed or we’re coming after you."
McPeak made the announcement in front of the Java City headquarters on Del Paso Road in the North Natomas area of Sacramento. "We are here in this spot because just in June, not more than 100 yards from where we’re standing, Kim Wheeler, an employee here at Java City, a single parent, was killed in an accident involving street racing."
Sacramento is the first of 10 regions around the state to get its share of the grant money. $450,000 will be distributed among several local agencies including the CHP, the police departments of Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
Undersheriff John McGinnis says street racing and reckless driving in general is a big problem. "And I really think part of what we have to overcome is the fact, it goes back to the American Graffiti kind of ideology that this is harmless fun. It never has been harmless but realistically with the increase in the number of cars on the road and the greater sophistication of the equipment itself, the potential to deprive people of their lives is greater than it’s ever been before and we as public safety purveyors have to make sure we do everything we can to minimize the likelihood of further lives lost and we take that obligation very seriously."
Like many people who have lost loved ones in a reckless driving crash, Barbara Keck applauds the kind of preventive measures that law enforcement is doing but she says they can’t be everywhere all the time and that ultimately, it’s up to motorists. "You wonder if people don’t get it and I think maybe you don’t get it until you lose someone. The time to get it’s now before we lose more people before someone else has something tragic hit them as hard as Leslie’s death hit me. I mean there will be a part of my life that will never be okay. This is never going to get any better. No matter what else happens this is never going to get any better."
Keck is organizing a rally at the State Capital of people who have lost loved ones in reckless car crashes. She’s calling it Save Someone You Love Day rally and it will include survivors displaying victims’ photos on a portable wall. It’s set for Wednesday, August 24th.