Illegal car races and car posing

12 May 2022 The Human Factor

Failure to reduce speed, violating speed regulations, and racing compromise road safety in many countries. In Germany for example, almost a third of all fatal traffic accidents are attributed to this particular cause of accident. More than half of all offenses on the German Register of Driver Fitness (FAER) are violations of the speed limit, and the real number – including unrecorded cases – is estimated to be huge. An increasing number of younger drivers in particular are being observed to exhibit the type of extremely fast driving that amounts to speeding. Legislators made a first attempt to counter this trend in October 2017 by reclassifying illegal motor vehicle races as a criminal offense rather than an administrative offense. Competitive driving behavior between two parties is sufficient to use as proof of the offense without the need for it to be agreed beforehand.

Typical cases include the well-known racing off when a traffic light turns green, or the parties involved simultaneously blocking the traffic behind so that they can race each other along the resulting empty stretch of road. Another example is participating in successive racing, which is when the parties involved first drive too fast independently of one another and then decide to compete in a speed race against one another. Drivers who deliberately take part in racing strive to live out their need for achievement in road traffic. They love dangerous driving situations and relish the high speed and the feeling of having mastered dangerous driving maneuvers.
The growing numbers of racing offenses, especially in cities and conurbations, are an indication of an increasing potential hazard on public roads. In Berlin alone, the number of criminal investigations conducted in relation to illegal motor vehicle races was almost 600 in 2019 and increased to almost 700 in 2020. At 50 percent, 18 to 25-year-olds make up the largest share across all age groups by far. In most cases, the respective driver of the vehicle was not the owner of the vehicle, but rather the vehicles were often rented or entrusted to the driver by a third party. For this reason, the state of Berlin has urged the German government to submit draft legislation under civil law banning entrusting high-performance motor vehicles to novice drivers, in order to prevent these high-risk groups from having access to these types of high-performance vehicles.


Speeders are often car fanatics who define their self-worth and identity through the use of powerful vehicles in spectacular driving scenarios. This is why racing provides an opportunity for showing off in addition to offering intensive driving enjoyment. Similar traits also characterize the phenomenon of car posing. Unlike a driver who wants to use their vehicle to get from A to B, the poser is concerned with “being seen” by an audience and being seen positively on the route between A and B. Posers drive vehicles equipped with features that look flashy and drive around noisily in a way that sets them apart, as this enables them to show off. For this, posers often buy older, used cars from expensive brands and try to restore the high-quality appearance of the vehicle by installing new wheels and rims, lowering the height of the vehicle, tinting the windows, and manipulating the exhaust system. The consequence of this is that many of these vehicles are no longer authorized for road traffic – at least in European countries.


Drivers who like showing off are fanatic about their cars and want to show this. A car poser’s act of showing off represents a compulsive need to present a certain image of themselves. The respective person invests a lot of time and money in this activity and takes a lot of care in seeking out a stage for their performance. Driving in circles around a dense city center with high rectangular housing blocks and street cafés that go right up to the road present the ideal conditions for this. As soon as businesses close for the day and people go home, the poser also ends their public performance, having gloried in repeating their “act” several times an hour. The car poser puts up with unpleasant consequences such as fines, expensive dismantling work to their vehicle, and confrontations with the police, and does not let these stop them from repeating the act.
The strong urge to carry out these kinds of acts and the tendency to prioritize this passion over many other aspects of life as well as the repeated self-inflicted harm through fines and expensive dismantling operations point toward problems with impulse control. It is evident that car posers are intensive users of social media, as this gives them opportunities to present themselves to a wide audience and enjoy affirmation through likes. Posers seek out recognition which increases their feeling of self-worth, suggesting that a lack of self-esteem is a key reason for their inappropriate behavior.
In the USA, posing on the roads began more than 40 years ago. As early as the 1970s, low riders, hoppers, and hot rods were known phenomena there. Older luxury sedans were lowered in height and equipped with hydraulic systems which enabled the vehicle to “hop.” The drivers of these sometimes highly elaborately painted and stylized vehicles drove around in them deliberately slowly. Low riding very quickly evolved into a trademark of young Mexicans in the USA. In this way, driving these kinds of vehicles represents an act of cultural identification, sets those involved apart from the “foreign” environment, and becomes a counterculture. This is also reflected by these vehicles being increasingly stylized like works of art, with some of them even being displayed in museums. This is a unique way in which a vehicle can have an identity-forming function, i.e., the opportunity for the owner of the vehicle to signal their affiliation with a certain group and their social status.
For example, the paintwork on vehicles of the low riders can represent certain residential quarters where Mexicans or Mexican street gangs live. The latest chapter in the history of the low riders is in the music videos of contemporary African- American hip-hop groups, in which it has almost become a cliché that so-called “gangsta rappers” slowly cruise around in souped-up limousines.