A two-and-a-half-year prison sentence may await reckless motorists who treat Boston's streets as drag-racing strips, if members of a state committee can drive home their proposals.
Local lawmakers and concerned citizens - who expressed concerns about speed limits - met to discuss the possibility of creating more severe consequences for illegal drag racing and other speeding violations at a Committee of Transportation hearing yesterday.
Convicted drag racers face license suspension, mandatory driving-education courses and various fines, but many lawmakers said those punishments are insufficient.
"A simple violation or a fine is not enough," said Sen. Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell).
Panagiotakos proposed those found guilty of drag racing should serve a two-and-a-half year-prison term.
Brant Hornberger, who accompanied Panagiotakos at the hearing, said his wife and unborn child were both killed when their car was caught in the middle of a drag-racing accident on the Lowell Connector in November 2005.
"Drag racing is a random act of violence that puts everyone on the roadway at risk," Panagiotakos said, "and that risk can be prevented by this committee voting favorably on this bill."
Throughout the hearing, lawmakers offered a stern message to citizens: Slow down.
Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) proposed three bills that would lower speed limits in densely populated areas.
"All of these bills are aimed at the same goal," Provost said. "We are trying to get a lower speed limit in thickly settled areas where there are more pedestrians and narrower roads."
A petition introduced by Rep. Bradford Hill (R-Boxford) called for a mandatory speed reduction when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle or tow truck. Many police officers, tow truck drivers and other emergency personnel have been killed while assisting motorists, Hill said.
Testimony also promoted the expanded use of alternative-energy vehicles.
"Massachusetts should proudly take a step toward these low-speed vehicles," said Matthew Huntington, a Somerville resident who recently moved from Vermont. "It is somewhat hypocritical that Massachusetts is so progressive with other vehicle laws, but has not recognized electric cars."