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Speeding in Manteca
MPD tasked with patrolling 219 miles of streets
Traffic flows down Woodward Avenue near the newly installed pedestrian crossing warning lights at Buena Vista Drive. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The freeway that runs east-west in Manteca isn’t the 120 Bypass — at least that’s what some folks contend.

They claim its Woodward Avenue where the posted speed limit for the most part is 45 mph based on speed surveys required before a city can legally use radar enforcement under California law.

And while the speed limit didn’t change after a 2013 survey — there was no justification to either raise it or lower it based on strict state requirements — some are calling for a new survey given new home construction east of Union Road.

That survey, for the most part, indicated the vast majority of people drive 47 mph or less on Woodward. Out of every 100 vehicles surveyed by radar for a study, only 15 exceeded the posted speed limit and then most not by a huge amount.

Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion noted that there are new homes with driveways backing onto Woodward Avenue as well as on-street parking spots. Driveways are either circular or have turnaround areas built-in per city approval conditions. That is in addition to three separate subdivisions being underway.

The city engineering department and not police conduct the surveys that are required at least every five years in order for jurisdictions to use radar for speed enforcement. Obligacion believes that once the area becomes significantly developed that another speed survey would be effective. At that point there is a chance it could resulting lowering the speed limit providing there is enough traffic and reasons for cars to slow down more such as the four-way stop quasi-roundabout at Tinnin Road and Woodward Avenue.

Radar enforced speed is set at the 85 percentile. That is the speed that the 85th fastest car out of every 100 surveyed on radar travels. As an example if the 85th car is traveling at 47 miles per hour, the speed limit is adjusted downward to 45 mph. If the 85th car’s speed is 48 mph it is rounded up to 50 mph under state law.

How that works is demonstrated by an example that Obligacion offered of Locust Avenue.

A speed survey covered 106 vehicles, all of which were recorded on radar doing between 20 and 31 mph. The car at the 85th percentile (numerically No. 87) in terms of speed was 27 mph. That resulted in the speed limit legally be rounded down to 25 mph. That means out of every 100 vehicles, 15 typically go above the speed limit with the fastest being six miles over on the day the speed survey was conducted.

The state rules governing the use of radar and posted speed limits was designed to avoid any jurisdiction from creating speed traps.

Manteca gets roughly

15 percent of fines

leveled on traffic tickets

Obligacion noted ticket writing for moving violations is to protect the public through education and not to raise money as many falsely believe.

Manteca officers issued 1,221 tickets for moving violations last year, down 16.6 percent from 1,464 in 2013. Fines paid brought the city roughly $110,000 in 2014. That doesn’t event cover the salary and benefits for one police officer. The rest — roughly 85 percent of what a driver ends up paying once all costs are factored into a ticket — goes to the court system and state.

Obligacion understands the concerns residents have in regards to speeding and unsafe traffic maneuvers. His forte for years was working traffic. His passion for traffic safety was underscored by him almost being killed by a reckless driver while on duty. He still writes tickets with the latest being for a violator he pulled over in his way to work on Monday.

But with just 64 officers and 219 linear miles of streets to patrol in Manteca, police can’t be everywhere. And while people can make a strong case for targeted enforcement in their neighborhoods or places where they work — which the department responds to with stepped up patrols — there are other neighborhoods with similar complaints.

“What we tell people when we do targeted enforcement after they request it is that the drivers speeding will probably be their neighbors,” Obligacion said.

Such is the case on Locust Avenue that is a connector between Yosemite Avenue and Mission Ridge Drive. It doesn’t serve as a shortcut to anywhere.

 Speeding, like other moving infractions, is enforced to the spirit of the law and not the letter, Obligacion noted.

“You can legally write someone a ticket for going 26 in a 25 mph zone but we don’t do that,” he said.” If they are going 28 will they get a ticket? Probably.”

Chief fan of using


Obligacion is a big proponent of improvements that make the overwhelming number of drivers go slower such as narrower lanes often created by bike lanes such as on Power Avenue and is being done on Louise Avenue, streets with large trees, and roundabouts.

“Most of us do not drive by looking at our odometer,” Obligacion said. “We gauge our speed by how fast it seems that we are going.”

Objects such as trees, narrower lanes and even bike lanes often accomplish giving drivers the visual message to slow down.

The police chief said people often request four-way stops in their neighborhoods. But he believes roundabouts are better as they slow traffic down without prompting drivers to speed up once they clear them as often happens between stop signs.

New neighborhoods now being built have roundabouts within them at intersections with parks and other feeder streets. Woodward Avenue, for example, has three approved roundabouts that will be built as development takes place.

And the safest way to avoid the need to speed? For Obligacion it’s a no brainer. Either leave earlier or don’t push the speed limit.

Speeding as the motorist on Monday that Obligacion ticketed, found out it can make you even more late if you get in an accident or get pulled over.

“He said he was going fast because he was late,” Obligacion said. “After he was pulled over, he was running a lot later.”