Residents want to put brakes on street-racing

A pair of arrests over the weekend put street racing in Tampa back in the spotlight, less than two weeks after a mother and daughter were killed as they crossed Bayshore Boulevard by a teenage driver whom police believe was racing.

Michael Lemire, 27, and Michael Segler, 28, were seen racing each other on the Gandy Bridge at around 11:45 p.m. Saturday, police said. Both are being charged with unlawful racing on a highway.

"It's kind of mind-boggling that someone would do some street racing after that. If you don't know that that's dangerous, you should know by now," said Steve Hegarty, a spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department.

The two men were caught during a police operation targeting speeding on the Gandy Bridge. They are the 21st and 22nd people arrested for street racing on the Tampa side of the Bay Area's bridges since 2016.

According to TPD, Lemire's children were in the car with him at the time. He also faces a child neglect charge. 

Less than two weeks ago, Jessica Reisinger, 24, was pushing her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, in her stroller across Bayshore Boulevard when a Mustang allegedly driven by Cameron Herrin, 18, hit and killed them. Investigators said the car's event data recorder, which operates like a plane's black box, indicated Herrin was driving 102 miles per hour before the crash.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said street racing can happen more often on bridges, but as the Bayshore crash showed, people drive recklessly everywhere.

"With speeds of 45, 55, 65 miles an hour or beyond, like we saw in the Bayshore case, the ability to see danger ahead and say 'that's a problem, I need to slow down, I need to shift to another lane,' you don't have the time," he said. "It's a common reoccurring issue that we keep encountering and it's unfortunate."

Members of the South Tampa community and safe streets advocates are pushing for changes like additional traffic lights, crosswalks and other safety measures.

"People are sick of business as usual, so we're not letting this fade away. We're not letting this story go away because it's something that could have been prevented. And street racing is something that can be prevented," said Kathy Yates, who has joined a growing list of homeowners in Tampa urging city leaders to make road safety improvements immediately.

"The speeding problem continues and will continue as long as our roads are designed to make people speed," added Emily Hindsdale, who runs the pedestrian-safety advocacy group Sidewalk Stompers. "Tampa is one of the most dangerous places in the country to be a driver or a pedestrian, so if you are out on Tampa's roads, that is probably the least safe place that you can be in Tampa."

The city has plans to install a series of safety measures on some of the major roads, including lighted crosswalks on Bayshore.