Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I have been closely following your reporting of the tragic traffic accident on Highway 120 in Manteca that resulted in the unfortunate death of a 14 year old and injuries to three other high school teenagers. While I believe distracted drivers are indeed a menace to pedestrians and road cyclists alike (e.g., I am an avid cyclist), I think your reporting is leaving out an important part of this story.
The facts are that four young high school students decided to take a walk along Highway 120 in the middle of the night (i.e., after 1 a.m.) and ended up being mowed down by a careless teenage driver looking for her cell phone instead of watching where she was going. Why were those teens out on the shoulder of Highway 120 after 1 a.m. in the first place? That should be a relevant part of the story. Had those four teens made a wise decision not to be strolling on the shoulder of a known dangerous highway in the middle of the night, probably without the benefit of reflective clothing, this tragedy would not have occurred.
Were those teens facing traffic or walking with their backs to the traffic? What responsible parent would be OK with their child walking along a dark highway after 1 a.m.? Of course, the ultimate responsibility for this accident lies with the young driver, whose life will forever be changed because of a moment of carelessness. However, this would not even be a story had those four teens not been out on that highway in the middle of the night. Therefore, I suggest you address that angle of the story, since it is totally relevant, even though it may seem insensitive to the parents and loved ones of the victims.
I’d like to make one other point. Your article references “Every 15 Minutes”, the CHP program that addresses teen age drinking and driving. Certainly drunk driving, or distracted driving involving cell phones, are serious issues. Unfortunately, while your newspaper is trying to make that point, right next to the “Death” jump on page A8, you have a large picture of a woman and her dog sitting on her lap in front of the steering wheel of her convertible (i.e., “Convertible Weather”). That photograph certainly sends the wrong message regarding the dangers and potential consequences of distracted driving.