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Amber isnt green light to speed
Bad driving habits imperil safety
Speeding up on amber lights is the No. 1 traffic safety issue at intersections. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

All traffic signals in Manteca are set to give drivers ample time to either clear an intersection or stop depending up where they are on the road during the time it takes an amber light to turn red.

But in order for that to work they have to be going no faster than the posted speed limit and pay attention. Driver inattention — and a mindset that interprets amber as a sign to speed up to get through an intersection before a traffic signal turns red — is why Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion rates “speeding up on amber lights” as the No. 1 traffic safety at intersections controlled by signals.

Not only is the time between amber and red uniform at all city traffic signals but there is a delay from the time a red light comes on and the signals change to green to allow traffic movement from another direction.

“Amber doesn’t mean speed up,” Obligacion said.

Yet that is what a lot of motorists do. As a result they are often entering the intersection as the light turns green for other traffic.

And nowhere in Manteca is the unsafe driving habit more noticeable than for southbound Fremont traffic at the Yosemite Avenue intersection.

That’s because a view of Yosemite Avenue traffic in both directions is blocked by buildings hugging the corner.

“I never go right away on the green there” Obligacion said. “I will wait for at least a second or so after the light has turned green to take my foot off the brake.”

Next on the list is blocking intersections primarily at Center Street and Main Street. At a number of different times during the day southbound traffic will enter the intersection and block it when there is no room for it in the 100 block of North Main Street.

What then happens is a ripple effect. The blocked intersection prevents left turns from northbound Main onto Center to back up traffic heading north.

And typically it will block traffic movements on Center Street when the signal turns green further backing up traffic in other directions.

“Officers will write tickets when they see motorists blocking the intersection,” Obligacion said.

Obligacion noted other issues at signals include:

umaking right turns on red lights without stopping and without looking for pedestrians.

upedestrians entering crosswalks after walk signals have started flashing red.

The police chief said most people erroneously believe the loops placed in the pavement are activated by weight to alert the signal controller that a vehicle is in a lane queue. They are activated by the detection of metal. Also there is a pre-loop farther back designed to alter the signal controller of traffic.

“I’ve seen motorcyclists who will back up and then go back and forth thinking that the weight of their bike didn’t hit the loop right,” Obligacion said.

The Manteca City Council has budgeted funds for this fiscal year to allow tying traffic signals together by a computer to adjust lights to accommodate changes in traffic loads in a bid to keep vehicles moving as much as possible.