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School crosswalk safety a big worry
Two Lathrop Steelers players cross O Street from Matador Lane to the practice field behind Lathrop Elementary School Thursday evening. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATHROP – The accident earlier this week at the three-way intersection south of Lathrop Elementary School which seriously injured a school teacher’s young son has renewed calls from concerned residents to correct traffic problems at that busy location.

“The problem with that corner is, when the Lathrop Steelers (football team) are playing, the parents park illegally and you cannot see around that corner,” an angry Tamara Edwards said the day after the accident.

“That accident happened at 6:40 p.m. I didn’t see it but I heard it. I was standing in my front lawn four houses away” when the car hit the six-year-old Lathrop School student who was crossing O Street at Matador in his bicycle, she said.

Her husband was one of the first people to arrive at the scene of the accident.

“We were actually on the front lawn getting ready for a Boy Scout meeting” when it happened, Edwards said.

“I’ve complained four times to the police department and again last night (after the accident) and left a message for (Police) Chief (Dolores) Delgado to call me back. I am quite angry because they chose to do nothing about it,” she said.

They did get a response to their complaints last year, she said, when they received an e-mail from Police Services telling them that “their deputies would look into it more.”

But, said Edwards, “all they did was get people to stop parking on top of the crosswalk – that’s all they did. People are still parking within five feet from the corner, so if you’re going down Matador and turning right or left on O Street, you cannot see around that corner. The fact that a child on a bike was hit rather than a car has me angry even more.”

The situation at that intersection has become so bad, Edwards added, that she has been avoiding driving through there every time the football players are practicing in the field behind the school because the police “allow them to park illegally.”

Police Chief Delgado acknowledged that what Edwards said is correct. “A lot of people ignore the rules” and double-park at that location during football practice times, which is every day, according to one of the parents who was dropping his player son off at the field Thursday evening. It’s a chronic problem, said Delgado who was interviewed before the council meeting Tuesday night.

Delgado also added that the police do enforce traffic rules at that busy intersection.

“We’ve been actively out there,” she said.

Resident J. “Chaka” Santos suggested that what the intersection needs to make it safer is to have a crossing light installed there.

The only markers at this three-way intersection are two parallel yellow lines for pedestrians which run across O Street from Matador Lane. There are gates on the south side of the field behind the school along O Street, and this is where the players gain access to the grassy practice area and where their parents drop them off. Parents who want to stay and watch, or wait for their children, simply park their vehicles on either side of O Street or anywhere nearby in this residential neighborhood.

For Santos, the pedestrian lines are not enough safeguard for pedestrians and motorists alike. He also believes a crossing light should be installed sooner and not later.

“Why wait for somebody to get hurt? That’s’ what gets me mad,” said Santos who is a big supporter of young athletes including those in the Lathrop Steelers football team.

The young victim of Monday evening’s minivan-versus-bicycle accident was reported to be in stable condition at the UC Davis Medical Center where he was taken by Medi-flight.

Sheila Brooks told the Manteca Bulletin that the “JV Lathrop Steelers coaches were first on the scene (of the accident) and one of our parents who is a nurse helped the little boy before the medics arrived.”

Resident Rosalinda Valencia also lives near the school but did not see the accident. Like Edwards’s, he also heard the accident when it happened. Describing what she saw at the scene when she got there, she said, “The bike looked like it was on the crosswalk and was knocked out from the crosswalk. The seat was knocked off the bike.”

The victim is the youngest of the three sons of Lathrop School teacher Brian Jex and his wife. The driver of the minivan was described by neighbors as a husband and father who, like the Jex family, also lives near the school.

Councilmember Sonny Dhaliwal said he did not know of the traffic problems at the O Street-Matador intersection “that I’m aware of” but that he has been made aware of complaints from people about “speeding around the school.”

As to the traffic problems at O Street and Matador, Dhaliwal said, “We will do whatever we can and whatever it takes to correct this problem if there’s a problem.”

Investigation into the exact cause of Monday’s accident is continuing.