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A $1,000 speeding lesson
Construction zone traffic tickets are expensive
HIGHWAY99 1-27-14
Traffic fines are doubled in construction zones such as along Highway 99 through Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Get caught for speeding fast enough in the Highway 99 construction zone through Manteca and it could set you back nearly $1,000.

That was one of two surprises that a driver found out recently. The other is that city law enforcement officers can issue traffic tickets anywhere in California.

Manteca Police officer Patrick Danipour shared his encounter with one motorist during a presentation by the department’s three-man traffic unit before the Manteca Rotary Club on Thursday.

Danipour, like many traffic officers with various agencies, rides his department issued motorcycle to and from work. Recently as he was heading into work from his home In Modesto a motorist pulled up alongside him on Highway 99, looked his way, and then continued.

“He was going 68 to 70 miles per hour,” Danipour recalled.

Danipour kept an eye on the motorist while occasionally glancing at his motorcycle’s radar display.

As they approached the construction zone through Manteca with a K-rail to the left along with narrowed lanes, the motorist gained speed reaching 82 mph.

Danipour now concerned about the safety of others, turned on his red lights and pulled the motorist over.

Danipour said he asked the driver whether he saw him and asked why he was speeding. The answer: The driver was running late for school.

The vehicle code calls for a $328 fine for unsafe speed 16 to 25 mph over the limit. Construction zones not only have a 55 mph speed limit but state law doubles all traffic fines within construction zones. Add court fees and such and that $656 ticket pushes $1,000.

Danipour along with fellow officer David Bright answered questions and shared observations about their “workplace” — the streets of Manteca.

Bright noted that despite a widespread belief to the contrary Manteca does not issue traffic tickets to generate money for the city.

Manteca last year received $70,000 from tickets issued for vehicle code violations. It doesn’t even cover the full cost of salary and benefits for one police officer. The police department’s overall budget is $9.9 million. Typically the city receives less than 10 percent of the actual fine. The rest of the fine plus charges piled on by the court and the legislature takes care of the rest. Because of that, Manteca will receive less than $70 of the nearly $1,000 the driver pays for speeding in a construction zone.

Manteca officers issued 1,464 tickets for moving violations in 2013, down from 1,533 in 2012.

Bright emphasized that traffic enforcement’s primary objective is to help make the streets safe and educate motorists about safe driving.

The officers explained that motorists often believe that because a motorcycle unit is not facing them that they can get away with speeding. That’s not the case. The motorcycles are equipped with radar units that read the speed of the closest car and the fastest car in front of them as well as behind them. Radar units employ cutting edge laser technology to provide the most precise speed measurement possible.

Bright said motorists will sometimes contest the speed the officer writes down on a ticket. He said that’s usually due to the fact a motorist when he sees red lights or hears sirens typically takes their foot off the gas first and then look down. In doing so their vehicle speed drops so when they read the speedometer it is at a slower rate that the radar read.

Other observations about traffic issues noted by the officers:

uCalifornia law requires that you pull over to the right and stop when you see red lights and hear sirens. It doesn’t matter if you’re by a red zone or not.

uBoom boxes or loud music coming from a vehicle that can be heard 50 feet or more away is an infraction and can result in motorists receiving a ticket.

uIt is not legal to text at a red light or a stop sign as California law notes a vehicle is “in motion” when the engine is on and you require either the brakes or gas pedal to control the car.

uManteca officers enforce California’s basic speed law that means it is illegal to drive faster than conditions warrant. A street, as an example, may be posted for 40 mph but if you’re going that fast and the roads are iced over it is not safe for the conditions.