Take some time today and make an effort to note how you drive.
Do you at least come to a California rolling stop at stop signs? When you are at an intersection with stops signs or are at red lights do you look in both directions for pedestrians before you step on the gas?
When you drive into the morning sun or the setting sun in the afternoon and its reducing your visibility do you slow down? Are you riding the rear bumper of the car in front of you?
As you exit driveways do you come to a stop before the sidewalk or simply roll through it not paying attention to anything but other cars?
Are you texting and yakking on the phone even if you are stopped in traffic? Is your attention focused on driving and your thoughts not drifting somewhere else?
And if you are on foot, take stock in a few things as well.
Is your undivided attention on various two-ton plus vehicles as you cross a street? Do you assume that drivers don’t see you?
Do you assume that because you are in a crosswalk that you are safe? When you cross even in a crosswalk are you looking for cars that might not see you or are you talking or texting on a cell phone or even walking across the street self absorbed in your playlist via ear buds that also block out tell-tale signs of impending danger?
The problem is all of us are a little but too self-absorbed as we drive or walk. Motorists become complacent viewing driving like breathing while pedestrians show no fear.
The death of 6-year-old Jordan Morrison on Friday as she was crossing a four-way stop intersection on her way to Shasta School came just months after a grandfather was killed while almost midway across Woodward Avenue in a crosswalk that had flashers on while pushing his grandson in a stroller. Those horrid events should make all of us think twice about how we drive or— if we’re pedestrians — how we assume drivers are paying attention.
The last pedestrian fatality within the city limits before this year was on May 22, 2013 when an elderly gentleman was struck and killed crossing Center Street at an alley. At that point in 2013, 8 pedestrians had been struck and injured by cars in Manteca or one every 17 days. The pedestrian death toll doesn’t include the Manteca High freshman killed while three friends were seriously injured while walking along East Highway 120 as that happened outside the city limits.
The three most recent Manteca pedestrian fatalities involved drivers who contended the sun was blinding them. The East Highway 120 fatality involves a driver that said she was reaching for her cell phone when she veered off the travel lane and struck the four teens as they were walking along the shoulder.
We describe such incidents — including traffic collisions between vehicles — as accidents.
Unfortunately, the term “accident” allows all of us to let ourselves off the hook. The word fits in one sense since its primary definition references something done unexpectedly and unintentionally. But most of us gloss over the second definition for accident — an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate causes.
There is an apparent cause in virtually all traffic accidents: People aren’t paying attention. They drive too fast for conditions. They ignore basic traffic laws. They fail to do essential maintenance and repairs. (Brakes, as example, rarely fail if they’ve been maintained and certainly give you enough warning when they are soft or sluggish. Your failure to maintain your brakes is not an accident).
One can only imagine the hell the families are going through and even that of the drivers in such fatalities.
The rest of the community is struck by the loss as well. But after a few days we go back to our old habits.
We also continue to focus our attention on the wrong things in terms of community safety.
Not dismissing gang gun violence, but since the start of 2013 there has been one death in gang-involved shootings in Manteca and the victim was a gang member. There have been three pedestrian deaths and four passenger/driver deaths in vehicles.
Not dismissing the death of the young man who was a gang member, but seven “innocent” people have died on Manteca’s streets and not one innocent taken by gang gunfire.
And if you included all the fender benders that don’t get reported, there are almost four accidents a day in Manteca that result in property damages. To match the impact of that carnage, burglaries would have to triple.
Those accidents —at a low-ball average of $10,000 in cost each — represent $14.6 million or roughly three times of all property stolen in Manteca during a single year.
What makes it even more frustrating is unlike gang violence or burglaries and such, all law abiding citizens can effectively reduce the carnage on our streets.
We should all clip the picture of happy 6-year-old Jordan Morrison cheering with the Manteca Chargers that appeared on the front page of Saturday’s Bulletin and put it in our wallet next to our driver’s licenses.
It should remind us of the awesome responsibility that the State of California has given us every time we get behind the wheel.