- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times from your elders: “What goes on in the dark eventually comes out in the light.”

The warning passed down the generations is designed to deter adventurous teens from engaging in self-destructive behaviors. Obviously, even grown men needed a constant reminder.

Remember “Rebel Without a Cause”? The moral of that 1950s flick about fast boys driving fast cars was designed to scare them into obedience. Even bored suburban youths face deadly consequences when they think adults can”t see them tempting fate under the cover of darkness.

Not much has changed given that a crowd of thrill seekers lost their lives or suffered serious injury last weekend while sneaking around in the middle of the night to watch fast boys driving fast cars on a dark stretch of Route 210 in Prince George’s County. Police are still begging witnesses to help them pull together the puzzle pieces about the illegal drag races, especially after so much needless carnage: eight dead, six injured — officially.

Bet there are more victims in hiding. The spectators” code of silence only adds to the shame of this accident, which by some miracle did not claim more lives.

My heart goes out to the families of the men killed. But these men had to know — by their support of an illegal activity — that they were putting not only their lives in jeopardy, but also the lives of innocent, unsuspecting motorists.

Accokeek, along Indian Head Highway at the Prince George”s/Charles County border where the accident occurred, is now a haven of relatively affordable housing. It is no longer a backwoods alley, as if that ever excused drag-racers from endangering public roadways.

Of course, in my vast cousin network that spreads across the metropolitan area like a giant spider web, I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who was injured during the drag-racing disaster.

Sorry, no matter my prodding, this person, who asked not to be named, would not give me the name of the injured either because he is among hundreds trying not to be discovered for fear of prosecution.

“Dude is all messed up,” I”m told. Mind you, this particular spectator risked additional injury by having his partners drive him to a hospital farther away from the scene of the accident to mask his presence.

Even so, my reticent source continues to encourage this spectator to step up.

If distraught mourners really cared about the bystanders, who have already paid the ultimate penalty with their lives, they would stop creating makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and stuffed animals. Instead, they would do everything in their power to help police catch the culprits and shut down this macho, immature, illegal, after-dark entertainment before someone else plows into a crowd of gambling onlookers.

Oh, they might not be betting with money, but they sure are putting life and limb on the line, which does not make them innocent victims.

After all, if fast boys driving fast cars are your thing, there are plenty of legal opportunities to engage in the death-defying sport nearby at the Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek.

Police have not charged Darren Bullock, 20, of Waldorf, the driver of the white 1999 Ford Crown Victoria that mowed down the crowd of spectators standing in the middle of the road after a second drag race started. Reports indicate that he was not one of the racers, but he was unable to stop his car to avoid impact.

Still, why was Mr. Bullock driving on a suspended license, at that hour, possibly without his lights on? Why didn”t he see the trail of smoke left at the starting line by the racing cars? With all due respect to his uncle, James Walls, who spoke to reporters, he is wrong to suggest that his unlicensed nephew, who has been acting like “a zombie” since the accident, is “pretty much a victim, too.”

“This is a 20-year-old man who was just coming up the road,” Mr. Walls told the Associated Press. “His life is changed forever.” Not his alone.

Mr. Walls worries that his “traumatized” nephew, who sustained minor injury, may never drive again. Maybe he shouldn”t until he gets a valid driver”s license.

According to court records, Mr. Bullock is due to appear in court next month on a charge of driving on a suspended license he got in May. Nine months ago? So how did he purchase his “dream car” a month ago, as Mr. Walls stated? Besides other petty offenses, Mr. Bullock, now the father of two, has been cited for driving with an unrestrained child in the car. Good thing that child wasn”t a passenger Saturday.

Yes, this horrific accident mandates for stricter driving penalties and increased police patrols. But tougher legislation is hardly the answer to curb a long-standing undercover culture of car clubs and illegal drag-racing after dark. Shedding daylight on personal choices and responsibility is called for here.

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