The Cannonball Run is more than just a movie….In 1971 Brock Yates, a writer for Car and Driver Magazine created an illegal, unofficial, unsanctioned car race from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the East Coast of the United States to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California. The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash was intended both as a celebration of the United States Interstate Highway System but also as a protest against the national 55 mile an hour speed limit laws coming into effect at the time. The idea being a race of this sort could not just be a middle finger to the establishment but also prove that drivers with the necessary skill were as safe if not safer on the roads driving at triple digit speeds than you’re average diver of average skill at the speed limit.
After the initial run Yates wrote a piece for Car and Driver about the race, response from the public was mixed. The magazine received some letters praising the effort and the protest, and others condemning the drivers for allegedly putting others lives at risk on the roadways. Still, the race was run four more times: November 15, 1971; November 13, 1972; April 23, 1975; and April 1, 1979.
Now flash forward to this September, when the next generation of scoff-laws and ne’er-do-wells picked up the mantle and ran the Connecticut to California route in a 40th anniversary edition of the Cannonball Run. Like the original running, the race was invitation only, completely illegal, and kept a closely guarded secret. This year’s winner was Fred Ashmore who made the run from Darien Connecticut to Redondo Beach California in 31 hours and 47 minutes in a 1979 Mustang.
Now the problem with illegal street racing, isn’t just the illegal part. It’s why its illegal. Both in the original concept of the Cannonball Run, and in the newer anniversary running of the sea to shining sea race, you largely have professional or semi-professional drivers participating, people of a higher skill set. But the average illegal street race, the kinds that go on late night on the interstates around Atlanta or the back roads of any small town in Georgia aren’t usually made up of drivers with those skills. They are usually made up of teens or young adults with a car capable of power that exceeds their skill level. This is how accidents happen. Cars getting away from drivers, a random mom pulling off of a side street unknowingly into the path of a race. Just go on Youtube sometime and you’ll find whole collections of videos of street race accidents or cars (for some reason mostly Mustangs) getting away from their drivers leaving car shows and careening towards crowds or into parked vehicles.
Street racing laws in Georgia are fairly strict. The penalties are not the typical penalties for a simple traffic violation. Street racing is charged usually as a misdemeanor but in some cases when there is more traffic present or the recorded speeds are unusually high it could be a felony.
The driver will most likely be arrested and his car impounded.
When the driver appears in court, the judge will most likely suspend his driver’s license, charge a fine, and the driver may be sentenced to time in jail.