“Hooning” refers to the act of using a vehicle in an irresponsible and dangerous manner in public places.1 Street racing and hooning behaviours have attracted growing community concern in Australia, and internationally, over recent years. All Australian states and territories, and New Zealand, have now implemented “anti-hooning” countermeasures, typically involving impounding the vehicles of offenders for increasing periods of time for subsequent offences, ultimately leading to vehicle forfeiture.2
What is ‘hooning’?
- From both a popular culture and legislative point of view, “hooning” in the Australian context encompasses a broader group of behaviours than illegal street racing.
- Over recent years, the term “hooning” has been used to refer to antisocial driving behaviours such as:
- “illegal street” racing
- Illegal street racing may be highly organised or spontaneous in nature. Highly organised races are typically staged at night in industrial areas, with start and finish lines marked a quarter of a mile apart (the traditional distance for drag races). Some groups use walkie-talkies and even police tape and false signs to block the traffic for the duration of the race. Others may use rolling road blocks to stage a race in the middle of a multi-laned road. Rolling road blocks refer to the practice of a large number of vehicles travelling as a convoy across all lanes of a road, slowing or blocking the progress of other vehicles until a clear “racetrack” is created for some distance.
- Spontaneous illegal street racing refers to impromptu, one-time races between persons who do not know one another (eg. drivers stopped at traffic signals on a straight stretch of a double-laned road may race, with the traffic signals providing a starting signal); – “burn outs”
- when the rear tyres of a vehicle are spun until they heat and smoke;
- “donuts” – when the driver turns the front tyres until the steering is fully locked during a burn out, so that the car rotates and a circular (donut) pattern of tread marks remains on the road surface;
- “drifting” – when a vehicle slides sideways through a turn taken at high speed; – unnecessary speed or acceleration; and
- “speed trials” – when the acceleration and top-speed capability of a vehicle and/or the skill of its driver are tested, usually on a straight road of a set distance, sometimes to establish or break records.
- The label of “hoon” is sometimes applied to car enthusiasts, drivers of modified vehicles, or to young drivers in general. However those involved in the car enthusiast scene are not a homogeneous group, and only a minority of sub-groups appear to be truly dangerous. Drivers who engage in hooning behaviours can be anyone in any vehicle.
- A CARRS-Q investigation of 967 hooning offenders involved in 983 hooning offences during the period 2005-062, found that the hooning offenders were primarily:
- young people aged under 25 years (76.9%) (50.8% were aged 17-20 years);
- Caucasian (90.7%);
- males (97.3%)
- in terms of occupation (where known), the most common major codes among hooning offenders were tradespersons and related workers, not working, and labourers and related workers. These three groups accounted for more than 75% of hooning offenders for whom occupation was known.
- The number of females attending hooning events is increasing