It sounds like a sensationally bad idea, but so might smoking or base-jumping. This particular sport, so far practised only by disciples of a certain strain of hip-hop music from the American West Coast, involves abandoning the wheel of your car and dancing on the roof while it is moving.
Known as "Ghost riding the whip", it is a fad that apparently is spreading fast across America as young men seek out new thrills. Helping to fuel its popularity are scores of home-shot videos of car-roof escapades on the internet, notably on the YouTube website.
But police departments are looking on the new craze with a jaded eye. Two deaths from ghost-riding gone awry have been recorded in the last three months and officials say they are receiving reports of numerous other injuries inflicted both on the riders themselves and bystanders.
"It did not take Einstein to look at this thing and say this was a recipe for disaster," commented Pete Smith, a police spokesman in Stockton, California, where ghost riding is said first to have taken hold. "We could see the potential for great injury or death."
Last month an 18-year-old man from Stockton, Davender Gulley, died while performing one of the stunts. He was hanging out of the window of his SUV when his head struck a parked car. In October, a 36-year-old man died in Canada after falling from the roof of his moving vehicle.
The stunt - so named because whip, in street slang, means car while ghost refers to the absence of anyone in the driving seat - has its roots in a brand of hip-hop called "hyphe" first made popular by artists in cities around San Francisco Bay including Stockton and Oakland.
Typically groups of young men gather with their vehicles after dark in places like empty car-parks to indulge in the ritual. Increasingly, however, they find themselves forced to arrange clandestine meets as police seek them out and issue tickets. The police in Stockton say that since last March they have impounded 400 vehicles driven by the ghost riders and issued 1,500 driving tickets.
Some riders are more courageous - or foolhardy - than others. Drivers usually slip their car into neutral before climbing through the window to strut their stuff - the trick is to dance to the hyphe sound alongside the rolling car or on the roof.
First inspiration for the stunts came from hyphe recording artists, including the rap singer E-40 who offered something like instructions on how to perform them in his song "Tell me When to Go".Reuse content