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Wild streets of Manteca: Time to care
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

 The posted speed limits around Manteca are not the suggested minimum speed limit. They are the maximum speed limit.

The story in Thursday’s Bulletin about the plight of Mission Ridge Drive residents who are living with speeding down their street as it has become more of a short cut as Manteca grows, triggered nearly a dozen voicemails, emails and face-to-face encounters with people around town who basically said “you think Mission Ridge Drive is bad, take a look at such and such street.”

Ironically two of the 11 people who contacted me used the same words that Mission Ridge resident Steve Keegan used five times when I met with him and his neighborhoods but did not use as a quote in the paper — “People just don’t care.”

They’re right. A lot of people don’t care. They don’t care if they hit somebody in a crosswalk or walking on a sidewalk as they are coming out of a parking lot. That’s because they value being able to use their smartphone more than not maiming or killing a stranger.

They don’t care if they ride your bumper if you’re going the speed limit or 5 mph over whether you’re on the freeway or North Main Street. That’s because they have super natural reflexes and a car that defies the law of physics. Besides they have to be where they are going because they either left 10 minutes late or they have to get home to catch up on their Facebook account or Tweet their 2,300 followers about how slow people drive.

They don’t care if they run red lights and roll through or — in a growing number of cases — not even slow down for  stop signs. Rules are for everyone else.

And they certainly don’t care if they speed through someone else’s neighborhood but speed through their neighborhood and there’s hell to pay.

What struck me about all of the emails, voicemails and conversations is the majority expressed the opinion that at least one if not all of the new police officers that the city plans to bring on board in the fiscal year starting July 1 should be assigned to traffic enforcement.

They don’t fear for safety from felons and such. They fear for their safety driving, walking, or bicycling the streets of Manteca.

Rest assured that Police Chief Jodie Estarziau has respectively disagreed with such a stance noting there is a critical shortage of patrol officers and that patrol officers can also do traffic enforcement.

Some in the public have a different view especially if they’ve seen a patrol unit go on its way after someone has clearly run a red light right in front of them. And while the officers that were seen were likely on their way to a priority call that wasn’t life threatening or a property crime in progress that would warrant red lights and sirens, it doesn’t change the perception.

The perception is somehow Manteca Police don’t care as well as driving behavior in Manteca in many ways is much more dangerous than gang behavior.

Significantly more people have died in Manteca over the past decade in traffic accidents than have been murdered the unacceptable way which is everything except not caring to follow the basic rules California established for the privilege of driving.

Police say writing tickets is about education more than anything else.

If that’s the case our collective driving IQ is sinking to the imbecile range. Given tickets are a critical way to educate people in a bid to change behaviors, you might want to checkout year end Manteca Police stats and see how many tickets have been written over the past 12 years on an annual basis. It has dipped from year to year — sometimes substantially. And given the fact growth for the last 12 years has put a lot more people on the street, ticket writing is plummeting.

Manteca has a three officer traffic unit which is less than it was before the 2008 budget cuts due to the Great Recession.

Hiring full-time officers can be expensive plus there is a need to be more proactive in combatting a wide range of crimes besides traffic safety.

It is why the City Council should dip into the unassigned operations reserve of $468,000 set up in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year for the expressed purpose of funding police overtime for targeted traffic enforcement endeavors whether it is for stop signs, red light running, playing chickens at crosswalks or habitual speeding through neighborhoods.

Let’s educate drivers and create the impression you’d better take driving seriously in Manteca or else you’re likely to get a costly ticket for a moving violation.

And whatever the city does, don’t say we’ll see if we can get a state grant to fund such an overtime traffic enforcement effort.

This is an issue that is local. It maims and kills more people in Manteca that all other categories of crime combined.

As for us, we all need to follow the rules. Respect speed limits. Make sure you leave on time if not a little earlier so you don’t try to justify speeding. If you’re on foot then pay attention to cars. If you’re behind the wheel then pay attention to pedestrians.

Let the people behind you flip you off because you take the foot off the gas and even tap the brakes cresting the Cottage Avenue bridge across Highway 99 so you are going the posted speed limit past homes and heavily used crosswalks.

More importantly care.

Care about safer streets. Care about others.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.