Posted: 4:57 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

9 Investigates illegal street racing in Orange County

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

When the sun goes down in Orange County, the cars fire up for illegal street races.

WFTV found crowds watching along the Orange Blossom Trail, where nearly 40,000 people drive every day.

It's such a dangerous sport that Orange County sheriff's deputies stormed the streets to stop the race.

The drivers and gawker's peeled off in such a hurry that some of their doors were still open.

But deputies only stopped the race. The drivers just found a new spot to start up.

Poulo Guimaraes lives nearby and said Orange County is a hot spot for illegal street racing.

"They pass me probably at more than 100 mph," Guimaraes said.

WFTV found Orange County deputies cannot chase the drivers, because the Sheriff's Office policy will not let them.

Channel 9's Tim Barber said that could be the reason most of the drivers aren't from Orange County. Deputies said 75 percent of them are from Osceola while others come from as far away as Tampa.

Deputies there are allowed to chase, under certain circumstances.

Guimaraes believes deputies in Orange County should be allowed to as well.

"The police need to do something for the people who live out here to make it more safe," Guimaraes said.

In August, Ronald Lastra lost control of his car and plowed into a crowd of people. Two people were critically injured.

Deputies told WFTV that chasing the drivers could just make a chaotic situation worse.

"It's a danger," said Orange Countysheriff's Capt. Angelo Nieves. "It's a danger to the community, it's a danger to the density of the population that we patrol."

San Diego also had a major street-racing problem until an organization called "Race Legal" pushed for more enforcement, stricter legislation and a legal place to race.

Since the group started the push, street-racing deaths plummeted from 16 in 2002 to zero in 2010.

Guimaraes thinks a similar strategy could work in Orange County before it's too late.

"One day, somebody is going to die doing this," Guimaraes said.

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