A 17-year-old Willow Grove boy was taken into custody this morning and accused of killing an elderly pedestrian while practicing a dangerous driving maneuver called "drifting."
The practice, in which the driver pulls on the emergency brake and turns the wheel to slide the car sideways, surfaced in the 2006 action movie, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Drifting has become a daredevil trend among local teens, said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Upper Moreland Township Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III at a news conference today.
"What we have here is life imitating art. The kids want the thrill of driving fast and acting like their favorite movie actors - and with tragic consequences," Nestel said.
The boy, whose name is being withheld because of his age, was speeding southbound on Old York Road on Oct. 12. His car reached speeds of at least 79 m.p.h. when he attempted to make the left turn onto Reed Street by drifting, Ferman said.
The boy lost control of his 2000 Volkswagen Passat, which struck Zita Egitto. Egitto, 81, was walking on the sidewalk on Reed Street on her way to meet a friend, Ferman said.
The car struck Egitto was such force that she was catapulted onto the porch of a home. She died of multiple injuries Oct. 15 at Abington Memorial Hospital, said First Asst. District Attorney Kevin R. Steele
Ferman described Egitto as "a picture of wonderful health" who volunteered at the public library and stayed active well into her latter years.
"This woman was simply walking down the street and was run over by a car that lost control," Ferman said.
Ferman and Nestel said they believe that drifting has been a national trend among the nation's teens, but this was the first case they knew about locally.
"Although we spend a great deal of time with driver's education in high school, this wasn't on our radar," Ferman said. Nestel said police will be actively looking for it, going forward.
The 17-year-old is charged as a juvenile, and was being processed at the Montgomery County Youth Center in Audubon this afternoon. He was charged with vehicular homicide and related counts. There will be no formal arraignment, as in adult criminal cases, and the boy will be held at the center as the charges are adjudicated.
Ferman and Nestel referred reporters to video clips of drifting posted on YouTube. In one such clip, a driver operating a small, silver car on a nameless winding mountain road begins drifting, only to have the car overturn and crash into the mountain, while watching teenagers cheer.
It was not clear from the video clip if the driver emerged alive.
The movie Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift starred Lucas Black as Sean Boswell, a loser who heads to Tokyo and gets caught up in the underground world of drift racing.
There are scenes in which Black's character races an opponent by drifting his souped-up car down a spiral ramp of a Tokyo parking garage, with much screeching and smoking of tires. Other scenes feature his character drifting along a dangerous mountain road.
In the end, he masters the technique and gets the girl.
Chief Nestel said such driving belongs only on the big screen. He said locally, drifting is moving from use in parking lots to use on public roadways.
"The streets are not racetracks or movie sets," Nestel said. "This kind of activity is a disaster waiting to happen, and it happened on Oct. 12th."
Ferman said she had never heard of the term drifting before the fatal accident, but she now realizes that teenagers having been practicing it for a while.
To adults, she said, "it's a new trend."
"It's important to let parents know about this," she said.
Ferman said the boy, who was alone in the car, told authorities he was practicing in a parking lot the day before the accident.