Street Racing: Legal or Illegal?

Approximately 3 minutes reading time

What is Street Racing?

Street racing is a thrill-seeking recreational activity that has gained traction in the last decade. These races take place on public roads and are often organized via social media and other internet channels such as Facebook. However, in contrast to the ease with which people arrange these competitions, questions about street racing's legality in England are often answered with similar ambiguity. Understandably, participants are put off by the terms 'illegal' and 'punishable,' yet even after confirming the legal status of street racing, the nature and severity of punishments remain uncertain.

A BBC article from 2013 outlined a letter from Assistant Commissioner Mark Dennett, who referenced Chapter 57 (1) of The Highway Code. This text states that "you MUST NOT drive on a motorway in a crossover or similar car with no insurance cover" and that "you MUST NOT drive on a motorway in any kind of recreation vehicle without insurance cover." A reasonable interpretation of these terms would suggest that car owner who engages in 'illegal' off-road activity on motorways are to be punished. However, as with most of the language used in road traffic-related legislation, there is no definitive or absolute definition for the word 'motorway.' So, what does the law say about street racing?

Is street racing legal or illegal?

Firstly, we must acknowledge that racing any motor vehicle on the road is hazardous and can result in personal and material damage. The legal status of street racing, or 'soloing,' as it has been dubbed in recent years, lies primarily with The Highways Act 1980 and Section 42 (1) of The Road Traffic Act 1988. The 1980 act places an obligation on the driver of a motor vehicle to have due care and attention while on the road, while the 1988 act extends this further by stating that this responsibility is 'not mitigated by compliance with any rule of law whereby a person does not incur criminal liability for contravening a statute if he acts with due care and attention. It is important to note that street racing, as well as its associated activities, are all still within the letter of the law.

On any public road, street racing is prohibited. It involves high-speed racing through traffic and is very risky. This activity is not condoned or encouraged by the UK's traffic law and can prosecute participants. Additionally, it is essential to note that it is illegal to organize any form of racing on public roads; this includes so-called 'private' roads such as country lanes.

Street racing is only permissible when the organiser has secured advance police approval under the 1988 amendment. This means that the driver or organizer of the race must seek permission from the Chief Constable before organizing or participating in a street race. The Police's role is to ensure that the event is conducted safely, with proper and sufficient safety measures for all involved.

How is it safe to drive at high speed on public and private roads?

Overall, the high speeds at which street racing is undertaken, coupled with a lack of safety precautions and emergency access, present a danger to all involved. Furthermore, the risks are not limited to those participating or spectating. Enforcement and legal action could occur due to the high speeds, speedo readings, and other driver-related factors. Regardless of the legality, those who want to participate in such events must ensure that they comply with the law, including having admissible, valid speedometer equipment.

Penalties for breaking the law

Street racing can be seen as an expression of individualism and self-expression. This is in stark contrast to street racers' cars, which are often vehicles generally bought for their image. These vehicles are also highly impractical, indicating that they are purchased with a specific purpose - the thrill of speed. In contrast, the law requires that cars are capable of being driven on public roads. It would result in extreme punishments for those who were to be convicted for violating this genre of law. This means that street racing is illegal and not condoned by the UK government.

The penalties for street racing are severe. Carriers of street racing are likely to face fines of up to £2,500 and/or three months behind bars. The maximum penalties for street racing are given in Schedule 3 of The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and include a sentence of up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to £50,000, or both. 


Street racing is popular in the UK, with participants often using social media platforms to coordinate the races. However, this activity remains illegal, with penalties including imprisonment and hefty fines. Car owners are encouraged to be safe, drive for all limits on the road, and not engage in street racing. Most cars capable of operating on public roads are already registered and insured, providing members of the public will only be arrested for driving their vehicles in a manner that runs contrary to their legal status.

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