Illegal street racing is a major problem in Dallas where scores of events were reported last month. Racers can end up with criminal records and even spectators can be hit with citations. The City of Dallas has approved measures to further crack down on the activity.
Dallas Police reported the death of one person and said 224 citations were issued during other street racing incidents across the city. The Dallas Morning News reported 114 police calls related to illegal street racing in April leading to 115 traffic stops, two felony arrests, and the recovery of 20 grams of marijuana.
Police said street racing took place at Interstate 35 and Royal Lane, Live Oak and Skillman streets, Cole and Lemmon avenues. One person died in a race at Southlink in Southeast Oak Cliff.
The spike in street racing sparked action at City Hall in early May. Dallas City Council members on the Public Safety Committee backed extending the powers of Dallas police to impound cars used in the races.
Members of the Public Safety Committee on May 11 overwhelmingly supported a proposal from the police for a new ordinance to seize vehicles and fine spectators at car sideshows. However, enforcement remains a concern for some council members. The ordinance will be discussed by the full city council.
Orders associated with the COVID-19 crisis to ban large gatherings had little impact on illegal street racing events. Dallas police issued over 200 citations over the last weekend in April. A race in Uptown attracted more than 100 spectators, the Morning News reported. The recent death is not an isolated event. In 2019, an 8-year-old girl and an off-duty Dallas police officer lost their lives in drag racing events.
The new ordinance would allow Dallas police officers to impound cars suspected of violating the racing ordinance when if an owner caught at an illegal event does not have valid insurance. Vehicles used in street racing would be subject to a court procedure called the nuisance abatement process. Onlookers at a street race could face fines of up to $500.
According to Assistant Dallas Police Chief Lonzo Anderson, traffic enforcement has helped tackle street racing but more aggressive action is needed.
Anderson said citations have not stopped drivers committing offenses including reckless driving and speeding.
A speed patrol task force has issued 5,425 citations this year. Last year, it issued 23,000 citations.
Street racers face jail time in Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code, illegal street racing is a Class B misdemeanor. Racers who flout the law can face jail time of up to 180 days, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
Street racers also face the suspension of their driver’s license for up to one year. They must complete 10 hours of community service they get driving privileges back.
Repeat street racing offenders can be charged with a second-degree felony and have their license suspended. They also can face two to 20 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalties for a third street racing offense can include life in prison.