TEXAS (KXAN) — Street racing has been a phenomenon around for decades, where people race vehicles to see who can outrun the other. However, in recent years, spurred in part by the coronavirus pandemic, cities across the country have reported more instances of street takeovers, also called “sideshows.”
These takeovers often involving blocking off intersections with “flash mobs” of spectators surrounding the vehicles. The cars then pull stunts like drifting, donuts and ghost riding — when the driver jumps out of the car while it’s in motion to dance or perform near or on the car before jumping back in to take over the vehicle.
Here in Texas, major cities like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin have reported street takeovers, with the Austin Police Department responding to four incidents late Saturday and early Sunday.
In mid-January, a TikTok video depicting a street takeover on I-10 in San Antonio went viral. The San Antonio Police Department said the takeover resulted in both a shooting and a four-vehicle crash, per reporting from My San Antonio.
Police told MySA several vehicles cut off traffic on I-10 near Callaghan Road and began doing donuts, with at least one person firing a gun. The cars then tried to speed away once police arrived, resulting in the multi-vehicle crash.
“SAPD is aware that we have occasional incidents with street racers or individuals who perform with their cars by doing donuts, burn-outs, or other displays of speed and acceleration,” police said in a statement to MySA. “Typically these are isolated incidents and we ask the public to call the police and report these activities so we can respond. On the rare occasion that large numbers of car club members plan ‘street takeover’ events we monitor these through our Fusion Center and respond accordingly. Our Street Crimes unit takes the lead on street racing at night with DWI as a backup. We utilize all resources, including helicopters to coordinate a response and keep the public safe.”
Dallas-Fort Worth area
In North Texas, NBC5 DFW reported Fort Worth police were investigating two deaths and two injuries following a street takeover in late January. Police said several cars blocked the intersection of University Drive and White Settlement Road in Fort Worth. Police told NBC5 DFW the vehicles were racing and drifting before the crash.
In Euless, a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, cars took over the intersection of North Main Street and Midway Drive last June. The drivers blocked the road before burning rubber, doing donuts and speeding near crowds of spectators, per reporting from NBC5 DFW.
Meanwhile, in Houston, street racing and other reckless driving incidents have been happening for years. KXAN’s Houston sister station KPRC reported increases in street racing arrests in Montgomery County between 2017 and 2020. In the latter year, Montgomery County law enforcement recorded three felony racing arrests and 24 misdemeanor racing arrests.
New Texas laws cracking down on reckless driving
At the state level, the reckless driving incidents led to new legislation to crack down on reckless driving and increase punishments for convicted offenders.
The Texas Legislature passed two new laws in 2021 — Senate Bill 1495 and House Bill 1315 — that bumped up certain driving offenses from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor. These laws added in fines and possible jail time for offenses that involve previous offenders, driving while intoxicated or the injury or death of other people as a result of the reckless driver’s actions.
The laws also allowed law enforcement personnel the opportunity to confiscate vehicles if the offender is a repeat offender, driving while intoxicated or injures or kills another person.