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Fatal crash on East Dallas roadway prompts push for traffic light on busy stretch

When Yuri Strain turned onto East Mockingbird Lane on a Tuesday morning in early January, she was greeted by a gruesome scene. It was around 8 a.m., and she had just dropped her two children off at school.

Strain was returning to her home on nearby Gale Meadow Circle when she came upon a crash site where three were later pronounced dead. A car traveling west on Mockingbird had lost control, veered off the road and into a tree.

For Strain, it was the last straw.

“If it had been a few minutes earlier, all our children headed to school would have seen the body hanging out of a car,” Strain said. “Enough is enough.”

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The Jan. 9 accident was far from an isolated incident, according to residents. Motorists often speed on the six-lane stretch of Mockingbird Lane between Buckner Boulevard and Greentree Lane thanks to a lack of traffic control measures such as stoplights.

Strain started a petition in the hopes of getting a traffic light installed at the intersection of East Mockingbird Lane and Dalewood Lane to force motorists to slow down. She’s lived in the area since late 2019.

Mockingbird, part of which runs through several neighborhoods near White Rock Lake, has been the site of deadly crashes before. A Dallas police officer was killed when he lost control of his Ford Mustang and crashed into a tree on East Mockingbird during a street race in December 2019. In 2021, a Chevy Tahoe and Range Rover were speeding in the 300 block of West Mockingbird Lane when they collided, killing three.

“We’ve just seen so many accidents there,” Strain said.

Motorists often ignore the posted 40 mph speed limit since there’s such a long stretch between lights, according to residents. Their petition describes the problem as “notorious.”

“When people are coming west on Mockingbird, they come down a hill over a bridge that crosses over White Rock Lake so they can get a pretty good speed going,” East Mockingbird Lane resident Eric Griffin said. “It’s a throughfare for most people and I don’t think they realize they’re coming into a residential area and they don’t drive accordingly.”

Mockingbird Lane even makes the list of the most dangerous roads in Dallas at personal injury law firm DFW Injury Lawyers. The firm has had several cases involving crashes on the street, partner Kevin Edwards said, typically at major intersections.

Speeding and distracted driving are among the most common causes of crashes that the firm sees.

The stretch of East Mockingbird where residents want a new traffic light also lacks a crosswalk, meaning families on the east side of the neighborhood have to walk about a mile out of their way to get to the nearest crossing that will take them back to the lake.

More than 360 people have signed the petition, with Strain also submitting a 311 request for traffic control measures. But putting a light in isn’t that simple.

After a request is submitted, the city’s transportation department conducts an analysis to see if a signal is warranted for a specific location, using a set of federal criteria. That involves gathering data on vehicle and pedestrian volume, the frequency and severity of crashes and other factors.

If an area meets one of the criteria to become eligible, engineers will then discuss the feasibility of a signal or other traffic control measures like speed bumps.

“It’s a process so I don’t get to automatically say, ‘A light goes here and here,’” said Dallas City Council member Paula Blackmon, whose district includes the neighborhood.

Speeding is not a problem that’s limited to Mockingbird Lane, Blackmon said. There are six ongoing traffic studies in her district alone.

Following the accident early this month, Dallas police increased enforcement in the area of the crash, issuing 28 citations between Jan. 12-14.

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Increased enforcement tends to have a temporary effect on speeding, Griffin said. He’s lived in the area with his wife and 7-year-old daughter for more than six years.

“We’ve had cars end up in our yard. We’ve had cars in the corner of our intersection. We’ve had cars drive through the median,” Griffin said. “It’s out of control in terms of recklessness.”

City staff confirmed Friday that they have initiated a signal analysis for the intersection, but it will likely take about three months to receive traffic count data because of a backlog of several hundred requests. Once that data is received, engineering analysis will take three to four additional weeks.

If traffic control measures are given the green light, construction contracts would then go before the Dallas City Council for approval.

In the meantime, Blackmon stressed that motorists should follow posted speed limits to protect themselves and others.

“Simply adhering to a law can really make a difference in the quality of life in a neighborhood,” she said. “Driving the speed limit and adhering to traffic laws is the first step.”

Residents are taking matters into their own hands. They’ve started placing signs in their yards and in medians warning drivers to slow down.

“Drive like your kids live here,” reads one.

Traffic passes by a cautionary sign posted along Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. Traffic passes by a cautionary sign posted along Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)
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