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The wild streets of Manteca
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It is 2:20 p.m. Friday.
I’m heading east on Yosemite Avenue in Manteca after stopping by the AAA office.
A Manteca fire engine with red lights on and sirens blaring is traveling east in the westbound lanes approaching Union Road where the firefighter/engineer driving has activated the traffic signals to control the flow. Not one, not two, but three drivers make right hand turns from eastbound Yosemite onto Union when they have no inkling if the fire engine is going that way or not.
The light eventually changes green but I don’t make it through. A sedan pulls up four cars ahead of me in the right turning lane. It is clear he is not going to turn right. When the light changes, he does his best jack rabbit to shoot in front of the driver who is legally doing everything right. I am four cars behind the driver who is in the correct lane to cross the intersection. Seconds later when I’m about even with the pizza place across from Cabral Chrysler Jeep Ram, I hear a noise to my right. Another motorist in a Ford Explorer who apparently used the right turn lane as a through lane is almost even with my front passenger door. I did not see her go through the intersection given she was way behind me and I certainly wouldn’t be looking for a driver punching it to get in front of me while traveling where cars are supposed to be parked. She is quickly running out of daylight as there is a parked car up ahead. I glance in my rearview mirror to make sure I’m not going to be rear-ended then quasi-slam on the brakes. The Explorer guns it and cuts in front of me just in time to hit her brakes to avoid bumping a sedan ahead of her.
Perhaps 10 seconds later the siren of an approaching Manteca Police vehicle can he heard.  Everybody ahead of me driving in my direction — as well as myself — pulls over. That’s not the case for oncoming traffic where two drivers keep driving nonchalantly as the police vehicle is almost on top of them.
Nearing Locust I notice oncoming traffic backing off to allow side traffic to turn. As I approach Willow Avenue I see a car that appears to have been waiting for a while to turn. I remember how the other drivers just seconds before were courteous and slow down. It gives the driver time to turn.
Next I’m stuck in traffic approaching Maple. The driver ahead of me stopped behind the crosswalk. This allows two Maple motorists to make the zig-zap to the 200 block of South Maple. A third motorist turns left into Yosemite and ends up blocking the crosswalk on the other side of the intersection. Then someone pushed it. A fourth driver turns and blocks the intersection.
It wasn’t quite as bad as on my way to the CSAA office driving down Center Street where traffic had backed up on southbound Main and partially into the intersection from people turning left onto Main from Center. The light changes. Instead of staying put, a southbound driver moves forward blocking half of the intersection. Drivers behind him move forward as well effectively blocking the complete intersection. The intersection stays impregnable for about 20 seconds.
I decided to get off Yosemite and use Moffat as Manteca High is about to get out. With it being Yosemite Avenue and a Friday I don’t clear the intersection. I am the third car sitting in the right turn lane in front of Century Furniture.
I get a little frustrated because the first driver opts not to move when the left turn pockets on Main Street have the green light. I know I’m not going anywhere soon as there are pedestrians waiting to cross Main from both corners. The light turns green and after the pedestrians clear, the driver starts turning. At the same time a large SUV turns right from the through lane prompting the driver making the legal right turn to hit the brakes.
I finally make it onto Main just as a train is approaching causing the crossing arms to drop. Fortunately I can make it to the left turn lane where I stop at the flashing red signal lights and then turn onto Moffat.
Surprise, surprise. Moffat is fairly congested with vehicles and pedestrians as Manteca High’s final bell rang just minutes earlier.
As I near Lincoln Avenue, my view of that street is partially blocked by a semi-truck that is moving forward in the opposite direction. It is then that I noticed the car behind it stopped at the intersection. Realizing it must be for a pedestrian I hit the brakes. I end up stopping halfway into the intersection as the pedestrian makes his way across the street in front of me. I was driving a little under the speed limit but obviously a bit too fast for conditions.
A few seconds later I see a man pushing a baby stroller with another small kid on foot standing on top of the gutter after stepping off the curb just before Sherman Avenue. I looked in my rearview mirror. There was nobody on top of me so I stopped. The man starts across with his kids just as an SUV whips onto Moffat from Lincoln and then passes me on the right even though I’m at a complete stop. The driver barely misses the family and he hauls down Moffat.
It is amazing Manteca doesn’t have even more accidents than it does.