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How California aims to put brakes on illegal sideshows, street racing

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3 into law which could suspend the licenses of drivers caught participating in these dangerous street events.
Credit: Giacomo Luca/KXTV
An illegal sideshow event that took place at the Southport Town Center in West Sacramento in May, 2021.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lawmakers in California this week are taking action against illegal street racing and sideshow activities, which accounted for more than 25,000 responses by the California Highway Patrol last year, according to the bill’s author.

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3 into law which could suspend the licenses of drivers caught participating in these dangerous street events for up to six months.

Sideshow events were born in 1980’s Oakland, California in mall parking lots, according to San Francisco Bay area hip hop historian Sean Kennedy.

“The original sideshows were just meant to show off cars, but they developed into larger events under Oakland's unique hyphy culture in the 1990s,” according to the state analyses of AB 3. “These events involve customized cars and hyphy music, an Oakland slang term meaning "hyperactive" that was coined by Rapper Keak da Sneak and popularized by E-40's song, "Hyphy.” 

Over the course of 40 years, in California, the underground street racing and sideshow scene has grown with immense popularity among car enthusiasts, bloggers, YouTubers, and spectators.


The events have also become incredibly dangerous and disruptive. These organized illegal events often block traffic on busy highways, major intersections and in crowded shopping centers. Drivers at the events do burnouts and donuts, often while surrounded by hundreds of spectators.

Events across the state have led to injuries, deaths, and damages to property including vehicles and roads.

Sacramento State student Austin Dubinetskiy was run over by a vehicle during a sideshow in Sacramento’s Natomas neighborhood in September of 2020. The incident led to brain damage, internal bleeding, a broken pelvis and multiple bone fractures.

An illegal street race in Wilmington, California led to the 2013 death of Valentina d’Alessandro, 16. Her mother Lili Trujillo Puckett has since formed the organization Street Racing Kills to advocate and educate for safe driving.

“I really, really believe strongly that this bill is going to help,” Trujillo Puckett said. “They don’t like it when they impound their cars, they’re not gonna like it when they take their license away.” 


Assembly Member Vince Fong authored AB 3. He says this will help keep California’s roads safer and give teeth to law enforcement who respond to similar events.

“The tragedies that have surrounded sideshows and street takeovers, are 100% preventable,” Fong said.

The City of Fairfield, California is taking the issue a step further this week in hopes of deterring similar street events, with the passage of an ordinance that would also hold spectators accountable for watching the event.

Spectators of sideshow events there could face misdemeanor charges and up to a $1,000 fine for watching sideshow events. The rule sets a 200 foot distance within a sideshow incident where a spectator can be cited.

Sacramento community activist Berry Accius, with Voice of the Youth, is concerned the new rules could adversely affect people of color, especially African Americans.

“We’ve seen too many times that these sort of laws and these sort of bills backfire,” Accius said.

Accius is concerned that the city ordinance that fines spectators is too broad and could prevent law enforcement from focusing on the driver who is responsible. He worries the new state won’t prevent sideshow events, rather make them become more secret and potentially more dangerous.

He urges state leaders to consider providing other avenues such as tracks or open spaces where these events can be held safely.

There was no public opposition to AB 3. The law will not take effect until July 1, 2025. 

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