Car surfing: A dangerous game to play

Tom Loftus

This is your brain.

This is your brain on drugs.

And this – picture the most horrible, vomit-inducing, grade-D horror movie image of a splattered brain that you can conjure up – is your brain on drugs after a car-surfing accident.

The 1985 Michael J. Fox movie “Teen Wolf” and the 1984 Kevin Bacon film “Footloose” are often credited with kick-starting the car surfing craze.  For those unfamiliar with this pastime, car surfing is a thrill-seeking activity, most commonly favored by teenage boys, in which the “surfer” hangs precariously out of a moving car, or – more frequently – rides on the roof or hood of a car while it is in motion.

Besides the two aforementioned ‘80s movies, car surfing has also been featured in the 2000-02 MTV series “Jackass” (and the subsequent “Jackass” theatrical releases, beginning with “Jackass: The Movie” in 2002), in the 2007 Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez film Kardashian” on your butt… and car surfing.

But unlike the Kardashian ink, the impact of your skull hitting asphalt is not something that can be reversed.

According to the U. S. Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., between 1990 and 2008, there were 58 reported deaths from car surfing and 41 serious injuries.  Most of the deaths claimed the lives of boys between the ages of 15 and 19. 

A 20-year-old man in North Las Vegas, Nev. died in April of this year from car surfing; a 29-year-old man in San Juan, P.R. was killed in May; and a 22-year-old woman in Springdale, Alaska died in June.

Just before midnight on the evening of June 30, in the vast, mostly deserted expanse of the parking lot of the Crystal Lake, Ill. Wal-Mart on Route 31, 20-year-old Austin Christopher Watts of Hoffman Estates learned the hard way that risky behavior can have permanent consequences.

According to published reports, Watts had been riding on the roof and trunk areas of a Dodge Neon, being driven by an 18-year-old female, and a Chevrolet Impala, piloted by a 19-year-old male.  A 17-year-old female, driving a Dodge Caravan, was also in on the “fun.”

While riding on the roof of the Impala, Watts fell and hit his head on the ground. 

Two days later, Watts died from his injuries.

Both females were cited for reckless driving and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.  The male was initially charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and felony reckless conduct involving great bodily harm.  The latter charged could be upgraded to vehicular manslaughter, now that Watts has passed away. 

Vehicular manslaughter carries a minimum 10-year jail sentence in Illinois.

Instead of spending their Fourth of July weekend enjoying barbecues and fireworks, those close to Watts found themselves thinking about funerals, and the tragedy that took one life and devastated countless others, including the friends that were with Watts on the last night of his life.

There is a reason why actors use stunt doubles, and why car commercials always have a disclaimer running across the bottom of the screen: “Professional driver.  Closed course.  Do not try this at