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New Driving Laws May be Passed

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If Sacramento's City Council agrees, police will be able to crack down on traffic scofflaws who use private parking lots for dangerous stunt driving.

The council considers the law this afternoon, with the prime target being drivers involved in a phenomenon called "sideshows." Those drivers, usually teenagers and young adults, gather in packs with their cars and entertain each other by spinning donuts, squealing tires, and doing a stunt called "ghostriding," in which drivers set their car in gear and let it roll unattended while they jump on the hood or walk alongside.

"Sideshows are performed while a crowd of spectators encircle the participants," said Sacramento Police Captain Jeff Schiele in a report to the council. "Vehicle sideshow events have begun to emerge as a significant public safety problem."

Because drivers tend to stage the sideshows on private parking lots like Arden Fair Mall after hours, police can't enforce traffic laws. "As a result, spectators and participants are merely driven from one private parking lot or road to another," said Schiele.

If approved by the city council, police would have the same authority they have now on public streets. The management of Arden Fair Mall is pushing to have the ordinance passed.

About three months ago, about 50 cars showed up at the mall after hours and began a sideshow. "They were spinning their tires, causing damage to the lot itself," said Steve Reed, head of mall security. He said that when police come "they basically just run them off because they can't do any vehicle code enforcement."

Other problems in the mall parking lot include drivers rolling through stop signs and crosswalks, and parking in fire lanes. Sometimes their stereos are cranked up, which often draws customer complaints.

"We're here at an odd hour on purpose to avoid that," said Silva Mier-Magallanez of Stockton as she and her family walked into Arden Fair on a weekday afternoon. "When we come on the weekends, it's ridiculous. It's chaotic."

"Right now, there's not much we can do under the law," said Reed. As a retired Sacramento Police officer, Reed says it's been frustrating. As he spoke with News10, an SUV with the radio cranked up cruised by.

"Hey, turn it down," yelled Reed.

"Our shoppers don't like to hear that stuff," Reed said. "If this ordinance passes, the off-duty officers we use can write a ticket for noise violations just like they can on the street. And that ticket is a couple hundred bucks."

After a spectator was killed during a sideshow in Oakland, that city passed a similar ordinance. The Sacramento proposal is modeled after a similar law enacted in Modesto.

The proposal goes to the Sacramento council as an emergency ordinance, going into effect immediately if passed by a two-thirds majority. Police could only enforce vehicle codes on those properties where owners have given written permission. So far, Arden Fair's 77 acres is the only property affected but it's expected other companies may follow suit.

"Wonderful," said Mier-Magallanez when she heard of the new proposed ordinance. "I think it will make a world of difference."

Another shopper, Larry Hunter of Elk Grove, agreed. "Yeah because it's always so crowded now. Any type of help, a little bit of regulation, will help out."

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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