If red light running was an Olympic sport Manteca would be home to the gold medalist, silver medalist, bronze medalist and the next 100 top finishers.
I no longer go on a green light without hesitating for four seconds even after looking both ways.
Red light running in Manteca is no longer an epidemic. It is rapidly closing in on pandemic levels.
And while everyone has their leading candidate for the ultimate intersection for red light running in Manteca, mine is Powers Avenue at Yosemite Avenue. It is rare when you are sitting on Powers Avenue waiting for the light to turn that a car doesn’t fly through the intersection either as the light turns green or after it has been green for several seconds.
Tuesday, however, was one for the record books. Three cars — not one, not two, but three — clearly blew through the intersection after the light had turned green. Two were heading westbound with the added bonus of one of the cars running the red light was in the lane that was restricted to turn right onto North Powers Avenue and clearly accelerating past the speed limit to cut in front of the car that was in the legal through lane and was simply breaking one traffic law and not three by running the red light.
Yes, the driving here in the Dodge City of the Northern San Joaquin Valley has gotten so bad that renegade motorists are going for hat tricks.
There are so many close calls at Manteca’s intersections — and we’re talking just about the 70 or so with signals and not the ones where stop signs are viewed as mere suggestions — that if it were an NFL game the replay equipment would freeze.
It’s nice that Mayor Ben Cantu speaks the truth and keeps whistling into the wind that Manteca needs more police officers dedicated to traffic enforcement. However as we all know the realities of city finances with its feet encased in a proverbial concrete block that we call unfunded pension liability. If you look at the city’s exposure for the next three or so years, the mayor could sign a $324 million contract to pitch for the New York Yankees over the next nine years and donate all of his earnings to the city and most of it would be siphoned off to pay for the city’s retirement obligations.
By all means Cantu should continue pushing for three to seven more traffic cops — or whatever number he pops up next. We’ll be lucky with all of the other pressing wants and needs that Cantu and his fellow council members have delineated to get one more traffic officer next week. Of course, that can all change if the voters can be persuaded to pass a $3,000 year parcel tax, up the sales tax to 25 cents on the dollar, and form a community-wide facilities district at a taxing rate of $100 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Barring the taxpayers channeling Elizabeth Warren and embracing carpet bombing the countryside with tax increases, the odds of that happening are nil.
All is not lost, however, if Cantu wants to become the patron saint of law-abiding motorists as well as the guardian angel of pedestrians.
Cantu in 13 short months has proven he is a rarity among elected officials. He has the moxie to not just sometimes state the obvious when others are dancing around issues, but Cantu will also advance unpopular ideas that are really the equivalent of taking distasteful medicine that in many cases is the only way to cure a problem or provide what people either claim they need or want.
In this case Manteca needs to seriously explore contracting with a firm to install red light cameras at the city’s most notorious intersections.
It is exactly what the Ripon City Council is doing. They have come to the conclusion they could hire an entire platoon of more police officers and barely make a dent in the wanton behavior of motorists that believe their time is more valuable than others and that someone else being maimed or killed as collateral damage in their haste to shave a few seconds here and there is simply the price others have to pay.
Ripon is enjoying people that reside in the Modesto area and work in Tracy distribution centers using backroads to cross the San Joaquin River via Airport Way and then drive through Ripon to reach Highway 99 to avoid the 120 Bypass snafu making their community of 17,000 seem as if it is as bad as the streets of Manteca between 3 and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
How bad is it? Ripon police during 16 days of targeted enforcement on week days between 4 and 6 p.m. made 84 traffic stops at the signalized Jack Tone Road and Main Street intersection. Forty-one motorists got off with warnings. There were 43 citations including 30 for red-light violations.
At other times simply observing officers witnessed upwards of 20 red light runners per hour. Rest assured if a plainclothes officer stood near an intersection in Manteca for an hour during peak driving times he could tally numbers that makes the Ripon count bush league in comparison.
The solution of a red light camera system runs between $4,000 and $4,500 apiece. If Manteca made a one-time investment of $150,000 citywide — the equivalent of salary, benefits, and related costs for hiring a police officer that then becomes a reoccurring cost — the odds are red light running would be reduced drastically.
Manteca pondered red-light cameras on Main Street some 17 years ago but the council backed down because of people angry they would be unfairly picked out. Technology has changed significantly since then as has the rules governing tickets generated by such systems.
The only ones who should truly fear them are the 5 to 10 percent of the motoring public that willfully ignore amber and red lights even though there is a good three to five second pause between the time a light turns red for one direction of travel and lights turning green for cross traffic.
If the rest of us that don’t make red light running a part of our daily routine occasionally get caught up because we weren’t paying attention, it certainly will help us not backslide if we are slapped with a fine we deserve. Going forward it would cause us to be more alert after taking a hit in the pokcetbook.
Red-light systems are effective because they put a check on the vast majority of drivers that aren’t overdosing on self-absorption and anti-social attitudes that are necessary to wholesale ignore traffic laws but are caught up in the Wild West mentality that is becoming more and more prevalent on Manteca streets.