Motor vehicle racing bill gains Senate committee approval
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FRANKFORT — The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure that would help boost motor vehicle racing in Kentucky.
Senate Bill 96 is sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard. He said there’s tremendous opportunity to allow drivers to race in the commonwealth, and the legislation would establish some protocols on permitting, insurance, safety and other related issues.
He testified alongside Erik Hubbard, director of Backroads of Appalachia, a motor sports organization based in Harlan County.
“Hosting events like this all across Eastern Kentucky as (Hubbard) has done, it’s not just as easy as putting it together,” Smith said. “You want to make sure you have insurance and all the stuff in place for the local communities and the cities and the counties that participate, and he wants to make sure it’s done right.”
SB 96 would set up a framework for local governments to grant permits for racing events as long as conditions are met on insurance, security and emergency services. It would also allow local governments to temporarily close roadways, reroute traffic and waive traffic regulations for the events.
Only a nationally or internationally recognized racing organization would qualify to host an event under the bill, and organizers would be required to provide written details to state officials 60 days in advance.
Hubbard said he is from Eastern Kentucky and loves the area. He wants to use racing to bring tourism dollars to the area and all of Kentucky in a safe and fun way.
“Last year, we had an economic impact (study) done from the University of Pikeville that we brought in over $11.9 million,” he testified.
Another key reason for the legislation is staying competitive with West Virginia, Hubbard said. His group uses professional organizers to host events across the United States. These groups can offer multi-million dollar insurance policies for drivers, he said.
Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, who is a physician, expressed concern about drivers who might not have insurance to pay for injury treatments.
“I worked in a small, rural hospital in Southern Indiana for many, many years, and we had something going on up the street where people would get hurt, and they would show up and they had no health insurance, nothing to cover the costs of these injuries. Is that a requirement?” she said.
Hubbard explained how drivers can obtain a $5 million insurance policy that is secondary to medical insurance.
He added that his organization partnered with those in addiction recovery to host a rally car race, giving 63 people an opportunity to “be exposed to a different culture and get them high on cars instead of drugs.”
Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who is chairman of the committee, asked about the length of the races.
Hubbard said they focus on 3-4 miles total, and they do time trials instead of traditional races. He added that the United States has a problem with illegal races taking over interstates.
“We do not endorse that, we do not approve of that,” he said. “That’s why we take the initiative now to even have car groups out of Lexington and Louisville come to Clay City. Let’s do a car show, and if you want to call a buddy out, you pay $35 and you can do it here legally and safely and not endanger families on the roads.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.