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Road ‘bull-ies’ charge thru Manteca red lights in hopes of goring an elusive AMC Matador
AMC matador

Running red lights is not an epidemic in Manteca. It’s a way of life.

If you doubt this, get out of your car and spend a spell at an intersection controlled by traffic signals.

It won’t take long until you see a pattern emerge.

Amber or yellow, contrary to the California DMV drivers’ pamphlet, apparently doesn’t mean slowdown. Instead it is a signal to throw caution to the wind.

It is one thing to view the running of the red lights from the comfort of a 3,000-pound protective cage with air bags while strapped in with a seatbelt harness. However to clearly enjoy the thrill Evil Knivel must have gotten from defying all standards of safety, you really must stand on the corner of virtually any signalized intersection outside of the downtown area and tempt fate by pushing the crosswalk button.

I jog each day across intersections controlled by stop signs. But none match the thrill and terror of signals at heavily traveled intersections were very few vehicles observe the speed limit and treat lights turning to red as if they are an angry bull eager to gore an elusive natador. But in the case of the streets of Manteca it is an AMC Matador assuming, that is, any of them are still left that are actually running.

Not even the T-intersection from hell —  Van Ryn Avenue at Industrial Park Drive —  can match the thrill of trying to cross Yosemite Avenue on a green light.

That’s saying a lot given Monday’s psycho driver.

I was already jogging across Van Ryn in the crosswalk when a car was approaching the stop sign in the left turn lane. He suddenly veered to the right, and whipped his way back to the left as I was nearing the midway point.

I looked over my shoulder and was a bit confused as to why he bothered to stop three quarters the way across the north bound land of Industrial Park Drive when out of the corner of my eye I saw a car legally turning left onto Van Ryn.

The look on the face of the driver was priceless as he cut three feet — if that — in front of where I was in the crosswalk. In defense of the driver he couldn’t probably see I was two thirds away across the intersection because the guy running the stop sign that whipped around me gave up playing chicken apparently blocked the driver’s view as he was making a legal left or else refused to be intimidated by what has become a run-of-the-mill Manteca driver auditioning to get a part in “The Fast & Furious 332: Manteca Drift”.

In fairness the intersection based on daily observations is without the doubt the most brazen right turn stop sign running intersection in town but it is a long ways from being the most dangerous. Mainly because pedestrians have come to expect no one comes close to anything that resembles a full stop. There are also few visual stops meaning pedestrians can see everything and myopic drivers only worried about other vehicles can’t.

The intersection clearly isn’t on the hot list of problematic hot spots for traffic accidents in Manteca. But when Manteca Police do work in traffic enforcement there they practically get writing cramps issuing citations.

That said watching vehicles enter intersections at a high rate of speed when the walk sign lights up makes you realize your vulnerability. While there is a three second delay between a green turning to amber and the amber turning red, there is a slightly longer delay often between the time the walk light comes on after the green light does.

It didn’t surprise me a week ago when I crossed the street in front of the Manteca Bulletin several times during the day that four of the six times I did so cars entered the intersection after the walk light came on.

But what stunned me was what happened at Powers and Yosemite that typically this time of year if it weren’t for the pandemic would have kids crossing before and after school to reach or leave Lincoln School.

Twice in the span of 10 minutes on Tuesday two cars going in the same direction clearly ran the red light. I’ve seen that before while waiting for a green light but it really doesn’t hit home until you see them fly through while trying to cross the street on foot.

I admit the fact I turn left — or right — a number of times a day from southbound Fremont onto Yosemite where buildings that include the Bulletin clearly block your line of vision has made me more cautious than many drivers once a light turns green. Not only do I look both ways but then I ease out.

There are two reasons for that. One is the cross traffic that pushes their luck. The other are bicyclists who more often than not are homeless individuals not simply running red lights but often doing so while pedaling down a narrow less-than-4-foot-wide sidewalk that is flush against buildings making them more invisible.

Twice over the past 10 years during the rush hour for homeless bicyclists between 1 and 2 a.m. I’ve started to enter the intersection after I’ve had a green light for a second or so I’ve had a homeless guy on bicycle without benefit of a light pedal right out in front of me and give the universal symbol using the middle finger that signals a person is gloriously proud of being versed in subterranean civilized behavior who backed up their deviant act by demonstrating their witty command of the English language by bellowing out the worn-out “f-word” attached to a pronoun.

On Tuesday as I was trying to play Manteca Roulette — a version of Russia Roulette that only the fool hardy attempt to play that involves crossing a street on a green light, it suddenly dawned on me. It’s not the fault of red light runners that they ignore the law not to mention the lack of common courtesy that is as a foreign concept to them as going under 45 mph in a 35 mph zone.

It’s because they are handicapped.

How else do you explain the non-stop red light running in Manteca? Obviously there are a lot of drivers that suffer from both dyslexia and color blindness.