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ACCIDENTS DOWN, TRAFFIC TICKETS UP
Relative safety on Manteca’s streets improve with MPD traffic unit restored to 2009 levels
speed lump
Speed lumps on Hacienda Avenue between Orchard Way and La Mesa Way.

There are signs that Manteca Police — working in concert with public works traffic engineering — are starting to make headway on the streets of Manteca that Mayor Ben Cantu has aptly pointed out at times seems more like the “wild, wild West.

Overall accidents and injury accidents in 2020 retreated from previous record highs in 2019. There were 958 overall accidents in 2020 compared to 1,065 in the previous year. Injury accidents were at 193 last year compared to 256 in 2019.

What did not change was the number of traffic fatalities that were at six each year. That ties 2019 and 2020 — along with 2015 — as the deadliest years on record in Manteca. The Manteca Police Department figures reflect only accidents on city streets and not those on Highway 99 and the 120 Bypass freeways that pass through the city.

A month-by-month look at accidents builds a case that much of the decrease could not be attributed to lockdowns, especially from mid-March to the end of April when streets had a significantly less amount of traffic.

The lowest month for overall accidents was April at 57. But that was just six less than in June when traffic was essentially back to pre-pandemic levels on city streets. The number of injury accidents numbered 12 in April as well as May. It was twice the number on a monthly basis than in July and August.

Also during the 10-week period where traffic was reduced the most by the pandemic from mid-March to the end of May, two of the year’s six traffic fatalities occurred.

Manteca Police traffic

division restored to

same staffing as in 2009

The biggest change on city streets was the Manteca Police traffic division.

For the first 11 months of 2020 the unit that was up to its same strength with five assigned officers that were in place before budget cuts hit in 2009 issued 2,194 tickets for moving violations. Moving violations are the most egregious traffic violations that have a direct impact on accidents — speeding, failing to yield, running red lights and rolling through stop signs.

There was a trade-off even with five motorcycle officers. While moving violation tickets were up 54.51 percent from the 1,420 issued in 2019, non-moving violation tickets dropped 33.81 percent going from 1,719 in 2019 to 1,151 in 2020.  That said reducing moving violations are considered key to reducing accidents.

Proponents of beefing up the traffic division contend it is the most effective way at reducing accidents as the “education/enforcement process” that pulls over and “educates” moving violation offenders by issuing a ticket or “educating” by giving them a warning has an impact on those who slip into bad habits. Clearly not all drivers can be “educated” into modifying how they drive.

Manteca is still lagging in terms of dedicated traffic enforcement manpower.

There were 66,230 residents in Manteca in 2009 when the city last had five traffic officers or one per 13,246 residents. Today with 87,000 residents that translates into one traffic officer per 17,400 residents.

If staffing were simply based on numeric ration considerations, Manteca has a staffing deficit of 1½ traffic officers. At any rate the Manteca City Council has not increased traffic division staffing levels beyond what they were at in 2009. During the same time the city’s population grew by 20,770 or 31.3 percent while at the same time the number of vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists grew exponentially.

A significant number of street miles have been added as well.

 

City takes steps to make

streets safer through

engineering improvements

 

In the past year the city has rolled out several significant traffic calming efforts to step up its engineering game. It is he passive part of Manteca’s strategy toward safer streets that is dubbed the ‘Three E’s” — engineering, education, and enforcement.

Even if a more muscular traffic enforcement unit is put in place, given officers can’t be everywhere the most effective “E” in the long run to altering driving habits is engineering.

Among the efforts over the past 18 months were:

*placement of the first speed lumps along Hacienda Avenue that has reduced speeding on a long street that is being used as a shortcut to travel between Louise Avenue and Yosemite Avenue.

*striping bicycle lanes along Moffat to narrow travel lanes to effectively slow traffic a bit on the longest major route in Manteca that has no stop signs, traffic signals or roundabouts for a mile.

*placing high visibility crosswalks on Moffat by Manteca High with warning flashers and bollards in the middle of crosswalks.

*placing a three-way stop at Pillsbury Road and Woodward Avenue.

*placing a four-way stop at Atherton Drive and Airport Way.

*installing a pair of overhead flashers for pedestrians at two intersections in front of Manteca High.

*as part of the rehab of Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Cottage Avenue as well as Main Street from the 120 Bypass and Yosemite Avenue put in place highly visible bicycle lanes.

*opened the first dedicated pedestrian/bicyclist bridge along with the diverging diamond interchange on Union Road at the 120 Bypass that reduces potential vehicle conflicts in half. Such a design has reduced accidents significantly in other communities.

*installed a four-way stop sign at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.

*replaced the non-functioning crosswalk flashers that were embedded on Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue at the entrance to Woodward park with overhead flashers.

*striped bike lanes to narrow travel lanes and placed the city’s first radar signs that displays an approaching vehicle’s speed above a speed limit sign along Mission Ridge Drive between Main Street and Union Road to slow down traffic.

 

What the city’s traffic

calming program entails

The city in late 2018 developed an updated traffic calming for neighborhood streets. Most of the strategies in the traffic calming policy aim at slowing down traffic.

Examples of traffic calming measures include:

*striping designed to narrow lanes and alert drivers. pedestrians and bicyclists.

*bicycle lanes to promote bicycle use and safety as well as slow down vehicles by making travel lanes narrower.

*Botts Dots with reflective markers to keep drivers on the right side of the road. They are especially useful on curves such as those found on North Powers Avenue.

*speed limit radar displays in conjunction with static speed limit signs in a bid to educate motorists of their speed and to encourage compliance. Deployment includes temporary radar trailers and solar powered speed limit signs.

*increasing traffic enforcement. As opposed to other measures it would be impossible to have in place 24/7.

*speed humps across the street that force motorists to slow down in order to cross. They would not be deployed on emergency response routes.

*speed lumps — basically three smaller speed hump — spaced to allow buses and emergency vehicles to straddle them by going down the middle of the road or toward the side of the road.

*speed tables that are a flat-topped speed hump of a longer length that can be used on emergency response routes.

*raised crosswalks that provide pedestrians with a sidewalk level street crossing. The raised crosswalks function as a speed hump of sorts while making pedestrians more visible to approaching motorists.

Other traffic calming devices include bulb outs, pedestrian islands, traffic circles, partial or full closure of streets, and stop signs.

Residents can put in motion a city inquiry into whether to deploy traffic calming devices on specific streets.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com