NC troopers chase street racers

The state Highway Patrol is cracking down on illegal street racing across North Carolina, from country roads around Rocky Mount to interstate roadways cutting across northern Wake County to a stretch of highway just outside High Point's city limits.

Troopers began serving arrest warrants on 72 people this weekend in the Triad, just months after they arrested 14 people in Raleigh for racing cars at high speeds on public roadways.

"Operation DRIFT," or "Don't Race In Front of Troopers," was the largest illegal street racing bust of its kind in state history, the troopers said, and more charges are possible. As of Sunday morning, troopers had seized 12 cars worth $5,000 to $150,000 and expected to confiscate 20 more.

Undercover troopers have spent long nights this year gathering evidence on illegal races, most recently on U.S. 311 near High Point. Speeds among the racers -- many of them older teens and young adults -- can reach 150 mph on open highways late at night, troopers say.

Misdemeanor charges filed for "speed competition" more than doubled statewide, from 499 in 1997 to 1,046 in 2006 before dropping to 799 in 2007. Charges issued for "prearranged speed competition," a more serious charge, have more than tripled in 10 years, from 51 in 1997 to 184 a year ago. Complete figures for 2008 are not yet available, but the state was on track to see 222 "prearranged speed competition" charges even before Saturday's operation.

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