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Red light cameras address cavalier attitudes & depraved indifference on Manteca streets
t bone crash
A photo of a traffic safety test demonstrating what happens in a T-bone collision when a driver runs a red light.

Red light cameras are coming to Manteca this summer.

And that’s a good thing.

Running red lights has become so prevalent that it is rare that a day now passes that most people don’t witness a clear cut violation.

And by clear cut, I mean your light has turned green and a second or so after it does a vehicle enters the intersection and crosses in front of you either nonchalantly going what appears to be the speed limit or you can hear the sound of their engine straining as they step on the gas.

There have been numerous postings on social media slamming the City Council for moving toward red light cameras.

The most indefensible ones say they’d rather see the city spend more money to hire enough police to crackdown on red light running than to use proven technology that has successfully addressed the shortcomings of previous red-light camera technology .

As Col. Henry Potter or M*A*S*H fame would say, that’s horse pucky.

You would have to hire the equivalent of the entire 78 police officers Manteca has in place and then some to get anywhere near the level of enforcement 24/7, seven days a week the community will be getting at the five intersections where the red light cameras will be placed.

And it will be done without officers needing to engage in potential pursuits if a driver tries to evade them.

Then there are the comments that say the red light camera system is rigged.

The devil, as they say, is in the details that refutes such off-the-cuff claims.

Red light cameras are activated when a vehicle crosses the limit line — which in many cases is the front edge of a crosswalk — after the signal turns red.

Keep in mind there is a pause built in between the light turning red and the light for cross traffic turning amber.

That is after a legally required several seconds plus — the actual length is based on posted speed limits — for a light to display amber.

As such, the state law controls the time transition from green to amber to red to assure motorists that are paying attention to driving and aren’t exceeding the posted speed limit can stop in time to avoid running a red light.

There are those who say drivers more conscious of amber lights due to the installation of red light cameras and drive according cause rear-end collisions.

Incorrect. It is the driver who is following too close and not paying attention to the traffic light who rams the driver following the law and paying attention.

The bottom line is this: If there is any rigging it’s the inability to enforce the law that allows those that put themselves and their refusal to follow reasonable traffic laws above the safety of others.

Those that operate vehicles with either a cavalier attitude or depraved indifference are a bigger threat to public safety than car thieves, burglars, and those banned for aggravated assault.

And even the financial losses from accidents exceed losses from property theft.

Last year, Manteca had 177 intersection collisions primarily from drivers running red lights. That is almost 1 in every 5 traffic accidents.

The average financial loss suffered from a non-injury accident has been pegged at between $8,900 and $10,000 by the Insurance Safety Institute based on 2022 data.

It increases if there are injuries. Those that are minor can add on $4,000 to the cost of a typical accident.

The average for all injury-related traffic accidents is $78,900.

It is $1.4 million for accidents involving a fatality.

That means the 1,000 plus traffic accidents that happened in Manteca last year that were handled by the police department resulted in roughly a $10 million loss when all impacted parties are taken into account.

Compare that to property losses through theft.

Data collected by the department indicated the value of all property stolen in Manteca during 2022 was $6,817,483.

That said, officers recovered $3,491,828 worth of that stolen property.

As such the net loss from crime per se was $3,325,655 versus accidents — almost all caused by traffic rules including inattentive driving not being followed — came in at roughly $10 million.

The contract with American Traffic Systems is revenue neutral. That means if the fines the city collects doesn’t cover the contractual annual cost of $268,000 for ATS to install the cameras and process the data that is sent to Manteca Police to review to see if it meets the threshold of issuing a ticket under California law and then mailing citations once authorized by the department, the city pays nothing.

ATS has contractually agreed to write shortfalls off on an annual basis if they occur.

Anything above and beyond the contract the city will put aside to hire more personnel for traffic law enforcement.

Given ATS is a profitable company that works with more than 300 jurisdictions worldwide that like Manteca only receive a portion of a ticket payment with most going to the court system or state, it tells you there is a lot of red light running out there.

The goal would be to get to the point that red light running at specific intersections can no longer support the ATS business model prompting the cancellation of cameras at that location.

If it makes sense for ATS to keep the cameras in place it means there are either a lot of repeat offenders who obviously don’t care or that it catches those who may generally be safe drivers but clearly from time-to-time are not 100 percent attentive to what they do behind the wheel.

In either case, the two primary causes of mayhem on streets will be addressed — cavalier attitudes and depraved indifference.

Driving a 4,000-pound vehicle that has the potential to maim, kill, or cause severe financial losses and hardships is — and should be — a serious undertaking.

It is something we all should take to heart whether it is a stop sign, the speed limit, proper lane changes, obeying traffic lights, keeping safe distance of whatever the traffic law.

As for those who keep wantonly ignoring red lights and piling up tickets at intersections where the cameras are located they deserve to pay every last penny including higher insurances rates such repetitive acts eventually led to.

Tickets are considered one of the most effective ways to gain compliance with traffic laws.

The very presence of red light cameras — as well as with word getting around of increased tickets for red light running — can prompt many people to change their driving habits and comply with traffic laws.

And the end result is safer streets, less injuries, and loss of life, and  reduced financial losses.



This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at