Two years ago, 911 dispatchers in Dallas fielded more than 4,800 calls about dangerous driving. In 2020, that number almost doubled. During the long months of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities across the country saw a spike in street racing, along with street takeovers and showy driving stunts known variously as sliding, spinning, or—to the people flooding 911 with calls—a huge pain in the neck and a threat to public safety.
The problem of reckless driving and street racing is new only to certain parts of the city. Police say that targeted enforcement against street racing in southern Dallas over the last several years has been effective—so much so that it’s pushed drivers to find new streets and intersections to take over. Meanwhile, the general claustrophobia and boredom of the pandemic have pushed kids to seek new outlets for their pent-up energy. Say, setting off fireworks while someone does donuts at the intersection of Skillman and Live Oak.
Over a year ago, a new ordinance gave police the OK to ticket spectators who gather for these impromptu car shows. With some success, the city has tried traffic calming: temporarily blocking lanes or installing stop signs to slow speeds on streets that have doubled as racetracks. There’s been a push for state legislators to make it easier to charge reckless drivers and seize their cars. And Dallas police have stepped up their enforcement, citing more than 600 spectators, towing more than 650 cars, and making more than 1,000 arrests related to reckless driving last year.
Street racing seemed to die down when temperatures dropped over the winter, but with warmer weather coming and the pandemic apparently receding, the police department’s speeding and racing task force has been keeping busy. In mid-February, not long after the arrival of new Police Chief Eddie Garcia, that task force began ramping up weekend crackdowns and sharing its results. Only time will tell if streetscape changes and targeted enforcement will be able to cool the spread of summer burnouts.