Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to pedestrian safety. He walks the walk.
When the chief recently dropped by a morning Manteca Chamber of Commerce coffee in the 100 block of West Center, he parked across the street and then walked to the all-way stop signs at Center and Maple to cross Center.
He was asked by coffee attendees why he just didn’t walk across the street which was legal given it wasn’t jaywalking as it wasn’t between intersections controlled by traffic signals.
His answer was to the point: Given the short distance between intersections and heavy traffic it was much safer to cross at the crosswalk.
In the aftermath of this month’s crash where a motorist struck a skateboarder in the middle of a crosswalk on South Main Street, there has been the usual debate about who was at fault.
Obligacion’s bottom line is everyone needs to keep safety first and foremost in mind when they drive, walk, or bicycle by doing so defensively.
That said, the police chief noted the law clearly states “whoever is in control of the intersection first” has the right of way.
As for jaywalking, there there are only four blocks in downtown that qualify for the issuance of such citations — the 100 and 200 blocks of South Main and the 100 and 200 blocks of North Main.
But when it comes to the worst block for jaywalking it is East Yosemite Avenue between Commerce/Northwoods Avenue and Spreckels/Cottage avenues.
“Most people don’t realize it but that there is only a block and the intersections at each end have traffic signals,” Obligacion said.
He pointed out that people routinely cross the block forcing cars to dodge them as they walk or run across the busy, five-lane Yosemite Avenue.
The police chief noted that when a pedestrian safely enters a crosswalk — or is crossing the street where there isn’t a crosswalk — and they have done so in a safe manner, they have the right away.
The letter of the law says traffic must stop until the pedestrian reaches the far curb or edge of the street. However, when Manteca Police conduct crosswalk stings or cite drivers for failing to yield, they typically do so when the motorist drives across the path of the pedestrian or close behind them and not if they are clearly out of harm’s way although they may not have reached the other side.
That said, Obligacion notes pedestrians cannot legally start crossing the street without it being safe. That means if they step off the curb and an alert driver can’t stop in time, it is not safe.
“It takes a second or two for a driver to react and if they are traveling at 40 miles per hour it then takes at least four car lengths for them to stop,” the chief pointed out.
As for intersections controlled by pedestrian crossing boxes, California law says a walker cannot enter the intersection when the hand or the wording is a solid red. If a pedestrian is already in a crosswalk and it changes from white to red they have possession of the intersection and vehicles may not cross through.
Obligacion noted pedestrian signals are set to reflect the time it takes an average person to cross an intersection.
Not only do drivers need to be more attentive — but pedestrians as well.
“Just because they are in a crosswalk doesn’t mean a pedestrian is safe,” the police chief said.
Other pedestrian safety concerns include motorists exiting from parking lots who fail to look for pedestrians or that don’t stop behind the sidewalk and look before edging out.
The Manteca Police Department has obtained $133,000 in state traffic safety grants that includes funding to conduct crosswalk stings.
In such stings the police will use trained decoys as pedestrians. Typically such stings yield between a dozen and 30 citations in several hours underscoring driver inattentiveness. The enforcement actions are conducted on busy streets such as Main Street, Union Road and Yosemite Avenue.