Omaha’s ‘No Cruising’ signs: A rarely enforced relic of a teenage pastime

For teenagers of the 1980s, Omaha offered little to do on warm summer nights. 

Too old to hang with their parents and too young for the bars, scores of teens hopped in their cars and headed for Dodge Street to cruise the main stretch from 69th to 90th Streets. 

Each crew had a “home base” along the arterial road. Dawn Slama Seefus’ hung out in front of Jiffy Lube. 

Friends excitedly called out her name as she pulled up in her baby blue Chevy Malibu Classic, Slama Seefus recalls. 

“Dodge Street was like a recurring party that you could show up at and feel like you never left,” Slama Seefus said.

In 1992, the party came to an abrupt end.

Citing an uptick in car crashes, traffic jams and teenage tomfoolery, the Omaha City Council voted to ban cruising on Dodge. Local leaders across the country had taken similar steps to clamp down on the pastime in the previous decade. 

The city mounted “No Cruising” signs along a busy 2.3-mile section of the road. 

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Nighttime drivers caught passing by a Dodge Street traffic control point three times within a two-hour period risked losing driving privileges for a month. 

The law appeared to work as Dodge’s cruising scene quickly shriveled. 

City officials later extended the cruising ban to several spots around midtown and downtown as part of a push to stifle seedier illegal activity. 

The “no cruising” ordinance remains on the books today, though it’s hardly ever enforced. Omaha police haven’t issued a single citation for cruising in more than a decade. 

“I can’t necessarily say it’s not an issue. It’s just not as prevalent … as it used to be when this (law) was first enacted,” said OPD spokesman Neal Bonacci. 

Only a few black-lettered “No Cruising” signs still hang in Omaha as a reminder of the bygone era. 

And their numbers are dwindling. When the remaining signs are eventually removed due to age, the city doesn’t plan to replace them.

The day that cruising died

Cruising, like so many mid-century cultural trends, entered the American zeitgeist through Southern California. 

The activity became particularly entrenched among World War II veterans and Mexican-American youths who wanted to show off cars they had modified into hot rods and lowriders, according to historian Gary Cross’ “Machines of Youth: America’s Car Obsession.”

Omaha’s cruising tradition dates back to at least the late 1950s. Local lawyer Katie Dunn recently learned that her mother was among the teens who drove along Dodge in those days while scoping out parking spots at Tiner’s Drive-In. 

Cruising Dodge allowed teens “to see and be seen” without chaperones, Dunn wrote last year in Omaha Magazine. It was a way to feel grown up without having to act like an adult, she said.

Dawn Slama Seefus (right) puts her arm around a friend during a night of cruising along Omaha’s Dodge Street in the late 1980s. Photo provided by Dawn Slama Seefus

Dunn didn’t cruise much herself, but her younger brother Jeff and his mom’s silver Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme were fixtures of the scene in the 1980s. 

The west Omaha native remembers driving to bars downtown and “being horrified” to see Jeff still cruising Dodge on the way back from her night out. 

By the time a movement to ban cruising on Dodge picked up steam in the early 1990s, dozens of cities from Eugene, Oregon, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had outlawed the practice locally. 

P.J. Morgan, then the mayor of Omaha, recalls that police informed city leaders of the traffic issues and general unruliness caused by cruising on Dodge. Retailers on the strip found the nighttime presence of partying teenagers to be a nuisance, Morgan said. 

When Councilman Lee Terry proposed a Dodge cruising ban in 1992, more than three dozen impassioned residents testified on the proposal.

Among the letter writers in support of the ordinance were Tom and Jeri Tinsley, whose 18-year-old son Robert had been stabbed to death by another young man during a night of cruising in 1981.

“It is our heartfelt hope that no other family will have to cope with this kind of devastation,” the Tinsleys wrote. 

A trio of Westside High School students opposed Terry’s effort, writing that the law would be “prejudiced against the many teenagers of Omaha.”

“If an adult drove by a store or restaurant on Dodge more than three times in two hours, the police would probably not fine or ticket them because they think only the teenagers that drive by cause the many problems,” they wrote. “This is a major stereotype that adults believe about teenagers.”

The deciding input, however, came in the form of an austere-looking report by a city traffic engineer. Prime cruising hours on weekends produced a noticeable uptick in car accidents along Dodge, and a full two-thirds of the crashes involved drivers between 16 and 21, the report stated.

Days after a 90-minute public hearing, the council passed the anti-cruising ordinance on March 24, 1992, and Morgan signed it into law two days later.

The ban worked almost immediately: the threat of a suspended license was an effective deterrent to driving-obsessed teens, Dunn said.

Some diehard cruisers migrated on summer nights to Council Bluffs’ Broadway strip, but the Iowa city outlawed the activity in 1994 amid growing complaints from business owners and older residents.

A “No Cruising” sign hangs on a lamp post near the intersection of Park Avenue and Leavenworth Street in Omaha. The signs originally appeared on Dodge Street, outlawing a popular teenage pastime. The city eventually hung the signs in other areas in an attempt to crack down on illicit behavior. Photo by Jeremy Turley/Flatwater Free Press

In 2000, Omaha council members created new no-cruising zones along Leavenworth Street and Park Avenue in midtown to clamp down on sex work and drug dealing in the area, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

“Hookers and drug dealers … that’s a real big problem down there,” said former Councilman Bob Sivick at the time.

Revitalization of the area over the past decade has mostly erased its reputation as a hotbed of prostitution, said Bonacci, the police spokesman.

About a dozen of the city’s surviving “No Cruising” signs hang along Leavenworth and Park. They warn drivers of a stiff maximum penalty for cruising: a $500 fine and six months in jail.

OPD has not cited anyone for cruising since 2013 when officers pulled over a man driving a blue Chevy Malibu near Hanscom Park.

The department only has record of issuing 10 cruising citations since 2001, and none of them came on Dodge Street, according to records obtained by the Flatwater Free Press. (It’s possible more citations were given from 2001 to 2013, but OPD can’t locate them, Bonacci said.)

Most of the ticketed cruisers paid a small fine or got the charge dropped, court records revealed.

OPD never made a conscious decision to stop enforcing the anti-cruising law, Bonacci said, noting that officers still occasionally cite young drivers for related offenses like “exhibition of speed” – more commonly known as street racing. 

When Bonacci worked the traffic unit in the 2010s, the need to enforce cruising “just never really came up.” But the ordinance could potentially be useful to police if cruising catches on again, he said.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox if there becomes a problem,” Bonacci said.

As a mother of six, Dunn doesn’t expect the cops will have to worry about that.

Today’s teens have TikTok and Instagram to keep them entertained and wouldn’t see much point in driving aimlessly down busy roads, she said.

With few options for fun, Omaha teenagers in the 1980s cruised Dodge Street and hung out in parking lots late into the night. Photo provided by Dawn Slama Seefus

But in some hot-rodding pockets of the country, cruising has recently enjoyed a renaissance among those who remember the good old days.

The city of Springfield, Missouri, in 2017 started promoting classic car cruising events along a main corridor where the activity had been banned by officials decades prior.

Albuquerque, renowned for its lowrider culture, repealed its no-cruising ordinance a year later and created a recognition program for special vehicles and car clubs.

Cruising got a turbo boost in its cultural birthplace last year when California lawmakers passed a bill to prohibit cities from outlawing cruising.

Proponents of cruising had long maintained that the Golden State’s anti-cruising ordinances and the police who enforced them unfairly targeted Mexican-American lowriders. When the new law took effect on New Year’s Day, lowriders congregated in East Los Angeles to take down a ceremonial “No Cruising” sign.

Cruising Dodge proved to be more than just a pastime for Slama Seefus. She made lifelong friends and even met her first husband there. The former Omaha cruiser administers a local Facebook group where old pals reconnect and reminisce about their rowdy nights on Dodge Street.

Now a grandmother, Slama Seefus doesn’t want to see a cruising revival on Dodge – times have changed, and it just wouldn’t be the same. But the memories of meeting new people, racing cars and getting up to no good are only a daydream away.

“Sometimes, when I have a little extra time, and I’m driving down Dodge, I pull into a parking lot and just sit there with my eyes closed,” she said.

“I can feel the setting sun on my face, I can feel the cool breeze stirring up the night air, I hear the echoes of my friends calling my name, and I swear that I can hear Bon Jovi singing ‘Never Say Goodbye.’”

By Jeremy Turley

Jeremy Turley covers the Omaha metro area. He worked at newspapers across the Midwest before moving to Nebraska. Most recently, he shivered through several frigid winters in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he covered state government and the COVID-19 pandemic for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and a native of suburban Chicago. His hobbies include disc golfing, collecting campaign buttons and using too many em dashes — or so his editors say.


I grew up cruising in both in Nebraska and California and I had a blast doing it (thanks to the cop who gave me a warning when I was car surfing in Kearney circa 1986) that being said nothing screams I peaked in high school like admitting you pullover to remember those times when driving down Dodge.

The current popularity of “drifting” is far more dangerous and destructive and seems to be gaining steam.

The end of cruising situation is an example of a few small groups of people ruining it for everyone. Our group never left trash in the lots that we hung out, and often, we would pick up others’ trash. City councilman Lee Terry met with a small group of us one evening, but didn’t ever follow up with us. The council simply passed the ordinance without providing any alernatives for young people to gather. Groups moved to other places in town, and several young people still frequent a couple of Sonic restaurants.

Thanks for wording of the Ordinance?
Travel Freely Anyone?
Individual Liberty?
She’s Right, it wouldn’t be the same, kids dont drink like we did and automobiles now have better safety features..

Getting our licenses in 1991 meant we enjoyed the last year of the cruising era. And what timing as I was just talking to an old friend and brought up how we used to cruise Dodge and her reply was “Omg that’s right. WHY did we do that?” I recall it being a pretty entertaining way to pass the time, plus it meant you could meet people outside of your high school circle. . .something that is likely way easier to now.

Great memories.
Kids from all over the city came and got to know each other from different schools and neighborhoods.
Will share this with our kids and grand kids.



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