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28 motorists get tickets in Manteca sting targeting pedestrian safety
Sequoia School third grader Vanessa Rodriguez tells Manteca High School resource officer April Smith her concerns about being safe while crossing streets. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Pedestrians legally crossing Cottage Avenue in a clearly marked crosswalk midway between North Street and the Highway 99 overpass got an earful from motorists yelling at them to get out of the way.

It was an expensive verbal lashing for the drivers as Manteca Police officers ended up issuing them tickets not for their expletives but for a moving violation.

One pedestrian was a police officer well schooled on not entering the crosswalk until it was safe to do. She served as a decoy as part of a sting operation aimed at those who ignore pedestrians that legally have the right of way.

Traffic officers Monday morning took part in the sting that saw 28 motorists cited for violating the rights-of-way of children and adults attempting to cross Yosemite Avenue as well as at the intersection of Glenn Drive and Cottage Avenue.

Detective Sergeant Jodie Estarziau said that Manteca High school resource officer April Smith crossed the roadway at Cottage and Glenn some 17 times during the sting, half of which she was “violated” by an oncoming motorist. She was almost struck several times.

 “I’m surprised we haven’t had more injuries at that location,” Estarziau said.

“Residents in the areas were grateful and happy to see enforcement for the issues of speeding vehicles and for motorists not stopping for pedestrians,” she added.

She said the drivers claimed they didn’t notice the pedestrians or felt that they had darted out in front of them.  At least one motorist was on a cell phone, she further noted.

“All the pedestrians walked across when there was a safe distance for the drivers to see them, react and safely stop.  More than one almost struck the pedestrian and, had they not been on alert, may have become a statistic,” she said. 

The sting was launched at 7 a.m. and was concluded at 10 a.m.

At least two drivers yelled at the pedestrians to get out of the way “or something similar, but not so nicely put,” the sergeant said. 

More than two dozen tickets were issued by Manteca officers who were quick to track down the offenders as they drove away.

A second sting operation is planned again next Monday morning before the elementary and high school classes get underway.

Estarziau pointed out that every hour in California a pedestrian is injured or killed.  Pedestrians accounted for nearly one out of five deaths in traffic collisions in 2009 – 58 percent higher than the fatalities in the national average.

The sponsoring Office of Traffic Safety and the California Department of Public Health and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have set their goals to motivate people to walk more often and to feel safe in doing it, citing that many people don’t walk as much as they otherwise would because of safety concerns.

It is critical that drivers slow down, organizers said, noting the relationship between vehicle speeds and the severity of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

As speed increases, so does the percent of fatalities.  Only about five percent of pedestrians are likely to be killed when hit at a vehicle driving at 20 miles per hours.  Eighty percent of those victims lose their lives when struck by a motorist doing just 40 miles per hour, according to statistics.

Tuesday morning three school resource officers, a public information officer and Estarziau along with Lt. Tony Souza hosted an assembly at Sequoia School where the focus centered on student safety including crossing the street.