NBC15 Investigates: Cracking down on cruising

Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 8:42 PM CDT
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The fast and furious practice of 'cruising' isn't new to Madison Police.

Officers said it’s been going on since the 1970s.

"This is a known event, it's a very common occurrence for the weekend in the summer," Madison Police Lt. Will Quast said. “It's the Fridays and the Saturdays and it usually goes until bar time."

Quast said during the COVID-19 pandemic, drag racing has become a greater concern to officers along East Washington Avenue.

"We've stepped up some of the enforcement out there with the activity we've been seeing out there. With the COVID pandemic a lot of people are looking for that outlet, looking for things to do,” Lt. Quast said. "We've seen an uptick with the amount of aggressive driving, reckless driving, speeding.”

NBC15 Investigates hit the road with Lt. Quast to witness the dangers and the consequences of cruising.

"We're focusing on certain citations. We're focusing on the aggressive and reckless driving, we're focusing on racing, we're focusing on speeding. We're focusing on things that can be a potential danger to people."

NBC15 Investigates looked through Madison Police citations related to cruising from the first four weekends in May.

Officers gave out a total of 218 tickets related to "speeding", "racing" or "failure to have control of a vehicle." More than half of those came from two consecutive weekends; May 8-10 and May 15-17.

"They'll drive three a breast to a lane and block off traffic so that people can race ahead."

"The speed limit in areas is 35 [miles per hour], we've seen reports and written tickets where people have been traveling at over 100 miles per hour," Quast said.

Madison police said they don't know how many tickets they normally write each weekend, but the volume of phone calls from residents in the area is what drew their attention to the problem.

"And it's not really on the weekends, I'd say that it's every day," Madison resident, Taj Janssen said.

Janssen lives near East Washington Avenue. She said the racing doesn't stop when the sun comes up.

"I walk my dogs across that way all the time, so I kind of get a little nervous with people speeding through red lights, not paying attention to cross walks,” Janssen said. “Definitely engines and tires squealing."

Officers ask drivers to shift gears before anyone gets hurt.

"When it comes to speed and crashes, physics become real and people get hurt,” Quast said. "Everyone wants to get out, I want people to enjoy themselves and do their hobbies, but when it comes to a safety concern, rethink that behavior.”

NBC15 Investigates also looked at some other data based on enforcement specific to East Washington Ave. Over the first four weekends in May, Madison Police officers received 15 traffic complaints and performed 69 traffic stops.