How many people in Manteca are running red lights, rolling through stop signs, making unsafe turns, driving distracted and speeding?
It’s enough that Manteca Police have issued an unprecedented 86 percent increase in moving violation tickets so far this year through Sept. 30 when compared to the same period in 2014. That reflects 1,620 such tickets compared to 868 in the first nine months of 2014. By comparison, overall traffic citations were up 5.22 percent for the same period to reach 3,813.
There have been seven deaths on Manteca’s streets in the past 33 months — three pedestrians, three people in vehicles, and a motorcyclist. That excludes deaths on the 120 Bypass and on the roads surrounding Manteca. When those are added, the death toll soars to 23.
Part of the increase in moving citations is the result of stepped up enforcement this year through a state grant that pays for overtime to augment the three dedicated traffic officers and patrol officers that issue traffic.
A correlation between additional enforcement efforts could be drawn from 2009. During the first nine months of that year when Manteca had 9,000 less residents but five traffic officers instead of three there were 2,949 tickets issued for moving violations or 1,329 more tickets than have been issued so far this year. In the first nine months of 2010 with the traffic enforcement unit slashed from five to two officers at about midyear due to a drop in city revenue, there were still 1,763 tickets issued for moving violations. During those two years there were no traffic fatalities in Manteca.
That underscores the “educational” or “awareness value” of traffic citations that law enforcement officers such as Police Chief Nick Obligacion point out.
The police chief notes that moving violations can also prove costly to drivers beyond the actual cost of the ticket. He noted insurance firms typically won’t increase rates on the first moving violation but when a second one occurs they jump between 5 and 20 percent. In some areas of California statistics show it is more dangers to drive due to accident volume and their severity, rates go up an average of 22 percent.
Critics of stepped up enforcement claim jurisdictions do it for revenue. But under California’s court system, nothing is farther from the truth
For all of the tickets Manteca issues — there were 4,711 in all of 2014 — the city receives less than $120,000 of the fines assessed. That doesn’t even cover the cost of one officer’s salary, benefits, and workmen’s compensation’s costs. The rest goes to the court system.
Over the past months on the heels of pedestrian fatalities on Edison Street and Woodward Avenue and a traffic death on Lathrop Road, residents have appeared before the City Council pleading for more police officers dedicated to traffic enforcement.
And while the city added officers this budget year to handle detective work for felony cases as well as additional general patrol needs but were unable to do so in the traffic unit, the city will still have stepped up targeted overtime enforcement.
Manteca Police were awarded a $113,695 grant this week from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a year-long program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic related deaths and injuries.
The increase in road carnage is not limited just to Manteca. After falling dramatically between 2006 and 2010 — the years that mirrored the most severe portion of the Great Recession — the number of deaths on California roads have been slowly on the rise. Deaths among pedestrians and bicyclists, though, have shot up faster than those in vehicles. The OTS puts part of the blame on the growing dangers of distracting technologies as well as the emergence of drug-impaired driving.
The grant funding will provide opportunities to address those concerns as well as issues such as drunk driving, speeding, and crashes at intersections.
The grant will fund educational presentations, DUI checkpoints, DUI saturation patrols, motorcycle safety enforcement, distracted driving enforcement, seat belt and child safety seat enforcement, bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement, stop sign and red light enforcement, speeding, warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders, court sting operations to cite individuals driving from DUI court after ignoring their license suspension or revocation, an stakeout operations to observe “the worst-of-the-worst” repeat DUI offender probationers with suspended or revoked driver licenses.