AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law two bills this week aimed at cracking down on illegal street takeovers and racing, just a few months after several Austin intersections were targeted.
House Bill 1442 is related to street takeovers and illegal racing and is designed to provide additional tools for law enforcement and prosecutors. It’s joined by House Bill 2899, which allows the immediate removal and impounding of vehicles involved in street racing, takeovers or other illicit activities impeding traffic.
Now signed, state law will be amended to remove the requirement that vehicles can only be impounded “if there was property damage or someone suffered bodily injury,” per the Office of the Texas Governor. Instead, impounding is permitted “if the owner is charged with racing on a highway or reckless driving exhibition.”
HB 2899 is effective immediately, while HB 1442 will go into effect Sept. 1.
The legislation comes just months after several Austin intersections were overtaken by reckless drivers Feb. 18-19. As of mid-March, the Austin Police Department had arrested 24 people for their alleged involvement in the street takeovers.
These aren’t the first pieces of legislation passed in Texas aimed at curtailing reckless driving. In 2021, Texas passed the law formerly known as House Bill 2315, which allowed law enforcement to confiscate vehicles in certain situations.
The state also previously amended its criminal offenses for reckless driving, upgrading certain offenses from Class A to Class B misdemeanors. Then-Senate Bill 1495, previously signed into law by Abbott, also defined a “reckless driving exhibition” as a means of tightening law enforcement response to it.
While February’s incidents mark notable ones in Austin, the Texas capital is not alone in its street takeover experiences. A May 2021 Associated Press report found a substantial spike in street racing and takeover incidents, driven in part by less vehicular traffic on roads at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.