Originally created 10/10/01

Law protects motorists



When he was young and trying to impress people, sheriff's Maj. Larry Vinson took his uncle's 1965 Mustang to the Krystal on Walton Way and burned rubber.

A police officer pulled him over and warned him not to do it again.

"That's what I did when I was young," Maj. Vinson said. "I laid drag for half a block."

Today, officers are taking it as seriously as ever.

Georgia lawmakers have made it a misdemeanor to put a person or property in danger while driving in a zigzag or circular course - "laying drag," said Jeb Murray, the chief assistant solicitor in Richmond County.

"It's not as easy as (an officer) seeing someone burning their tires," he said. "It's creating a danger to a person or property ... by driving in a zigzag or circular (motion)."

In Richmond County, there have been 241 people charged with laying drag since 1998, including 43 this year, sheriff's Col. Gary Powell said. Columbia County has had fewer cases: 100 since 1998.

Augusta State University student Tim Pendley was arrested Saturday and taken to jail after being charged with the offense.

Mr. Pendley, an auto parts salesman, was driving home from work in his low-riding pickup truck when he got upset at a another driver and stepped on the accelerator pedal to pass. He said his tire spun and squealed.

Before he knew it, he was under arrest for laying drag, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"It's ridiculous. I mean, my mom's done it before," Mr. Pendley said.

Many police officers also can recall burning rubber as youngsters.

"Laying rubber is what we called it in my day," said Sid Gauldin, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

There is no charge of laying drag in South Carolina. But a driver can be charged with the similar offense of reckless driving, Mr. Gauldin said.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver said most drivers stopped for laying drag are cited, not arrested.

Officials say the law exists for a good reason.

"We take it seriously," Maj. Vinson said. "Many times, they fishtail it out of control and they can cause an accident. It's dangerous."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.

Georgia law: No driver of any motor vehicle shall operate the vehicle on public streets, highways, public or private driveways, airport runways, or parking lots in such a manner as to create a danger to persons or property by intentionally and unnecessarily causing the vehicle to move in a zigzag or circular course or to gyrate or spin around, except to avoid a collision or injury or damage.

Exception: Does not apply to drivers operating vehicles on a raceway, drag strip, or similar place lawfully used for such purposes.

Penalty: Misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.