Proposed Georgia law honors late DeKalb woman, adds steep penalties to drag race participants

DeKalb County and state leaders are considering stricter laws against drag racing in honor of a woman who is believed to have died because of the illegal activity.

In a virtual forum hosted by DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson on drag racing, Bobbie Sanford said her granddaughter and daughter-in-law, Jaye Sanford, were leaving Walmart on Memorial Drive in Decatur on the evening of Nov. 21 but never made it home.

“My granddaughter remembers that a car was driving very fast and came into their lane,” said Sanford. Sanford’s daughter-in-law died as a result of a car crashing head-on into her family’s vehicle. “[My son’s] heart dropped when he saw the accident scene. I feel that people who street race, if they stopped for a moment to realize the devastation and grief that they can cause families…No family should have to go through the experience that we have experienced.” 

Jaye Sanford died at the age of 52 after an alleged street racer struck her vehicle head-on on Memorial Drive in November 2020. Photo from Sanford’s Facebook

Ga. Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, has filed Senate Bill 10, also called “Jaye Mize Law,” in honor of Sanford’s daughter-in-law. The bill is intended to deter street racing by stiffening penalties against drag racing, an issue that has become widespread throughout metro Atlanta. 

“Just a few weeks ago my chief of staff shared a story with me that he was almost hit by a street racer performing stunts in the middle of ongoing traffic in DeKalb,” said DeKalb Commissioner Mereda Davis-Johnson, who is sponsoring a resolution supporting stiffer drag racing penalties to present to the Georgia General Assembly. “We must do everything we can to stop this madness…This has been and can be very dangerous to our quality of life and life itself.”

While there are already penalties in place for drivers engaging in drag or street racing, SB 10 would add penalties for those who are knowingly present at a street racing event, and those who promote and advertise the events.

The bill would also require “high-performance” license plates for cars made with or modified to have 650 horsepower or more.

Laying drag penalties would be the highest amount in the point system toward suspension of a driver’s license. Anyone found guilty of laying drag would be subject to 8 points against thier driver’s license. According to Georgia law, drivers 21 years old and older will have driving privileges suspended if they receive 15 points within a 24-month period; drivers younger than 21 years of age will have their driver’s license suspended for committing any violation worth 4 points.

Under the proposed bill, drivers would be fined a minimum of $2,500 and involved vehicles will be impounded and stored at the operator’s risk and expense until the adjudication of the offense.

“Because of your efforts and your son, I believe many lives are going to be saved,” Jones said to Bobbie Sanford.

Other panelists included DeKalb County Police Lt. Timothy Donahue and representatives from Camaro Nation ATL, a car club, who suggested that a formal location to have legal races and shows would curtail the illegal activity.

SB 10 can be viewed in its entirety at  https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58927. Those who support the bill are encouraged to email state legislators. 

An online petition is also circulating for those who support more strict street racing laws: https://www.change.org/p/georgia-state-house-deter-street-racing-in-georgia.

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