Caught in the box

Have you ever been caught in th box? That’s when you get caught in the intersection and the light changes, leaving you stranded and blocking cross traffic. I make a point of watching traffic ahead and try to stop before I get stuck in the intersection. It seems that it won’t just be aggravating for the other drivers in Baltimore anymore, it will be expensive for the stuck driver. In about 30 days, the Baltimore police will start enforcing the law against getting stuck in the box. It’ll cost the perps $90 and one point if the police pop them. What do you think? Should errant drivers be punished for getting stuck in the intersection? I think so. Sometimes I’ve even wanted a phaser to make them disappear. Bzzt…bzzzzzzt…BZZZZZZZZZZZT…


Unforeseen things happen all the time

And sometimes even people that are aware of everything that is going on and plan ahead will get caught in the box, to use your own phrase

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I think it’s a mistake and kind of irresponsible to enter an intersection when you don’t clearly see that you can get all the way through. If you get stuck in the box, you block cross traffic and add to others’ miseries. I would feel embarrassed to get stuck.

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Actually, it’s the law for any intersection, not just the ones highlighted with a box drawn on the asphalt.

You are not supposed to enter an intersection unless you see a way to drive out of it.

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I stole the phrase from the local TV news story I saw. They got it from the local police. Apparently it’s a thing. I don’t know about LA, but people rolling into the box and taking up the entire intersection happens frequently in the D.C./Baltimore area. I was at an intersection a couple months ago and people on the road I wanted to cross monopolized both directions of cross traffic for at least three light cycles. It isn’t an inadvertent error.

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As long as your car crosses the line (crosswalk indicating the beginning of the intersection) when the light is yellow, I don’t think you should get a ticket if you get stuck in the intersection. If you cross that line when the light is red, yes, you should get a ticket for that. One of my co-workers got a ticket by a red light camera when he got stuck in the intersection like that during a traffic jam. He refused to pay, saying the light was yellow when he crossed, and after much work got his ticket reversed, and got the red light camera removed too. Apparently there were quite a few residents of his city with the same problem.

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It has been the law in NY for quite a while and not enforced enough. It only applies to traffic going straight through the intersection, traffic turning left is supposed to enter the intersection on the green and wait for it to be clear to turn left. I learned this on our every other year in house road test with a school bus.

I didn’t enter an intersection because of oncoming traffic when the examiner told me to turn left. when the examiner insisted I told her that it was not a good idea because the northbound traffic gets the green light at that intersection both before and after the southbound traffic. The examiners solution was to have me turn left at the next light.

That didn’t help me know what to do at that intersection though. I spoke to someone at the state DOT and they said the situation exists because coming northbound there is a bridge just before the intersection and they are not allowed to stop traffic on the bridge.

The only other problem I see with the law is that in heavy traffic on a busy intersection, the right turning traffic fills up the street they are turning into and there is never any clear space for the straight through traffic to pull into.

Nothing 100% prevents getting caught in the box. Not driver planning, not traffic engineering, not regulations, not even experience.

The important thing is how the drivers caught up in the situation respond. Those who try to bully their way through, those who become enraged, those who intentionally take out their frustration by intentionally making a move that exacerbates the situation, these people should be… well, I’ll avoid going there. Those who react calmly, create communication connections with the other drivers, and work with them to figure a way to unravel the jam are rewarded with much more pleasant lives.

But none of this can be totally controlled. That’s just the way life is.

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In Minnesota until last year you were allowed to finish your turn if you got stuck in an intersection. I think it was silly to change the law. Really sometimes you just can’t avoid it if you end up behind someone that just is afraid to turn. I’ve seen times when only one person can get through a light when making a turn and even times when no car can make a turn. So if you are the lead car and proceed to the intersection to make a turn, and find it can’t be done-it’s not like you can back up or stay where you are. In traffic, bad weather, etc. it’s just silly.

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I think its important to keep in mind there are other drivers going other ways, and you shouldn’t go into an intersection until you can get through it. On the other hand I mostly ride motorcycles or scooters in heavy traffic, so it really isn’t a factor. I can always squeeze into some place and get out of the way, and a gridlocked intersection isn’t a problem to thread through.

There are times when targeted enforcement is warranted. If the folks in Baltimore have noticed that it’s becoming a given practice to pull into an intersection without a clear way out and this enforcement is an attempt to change the practice, it seems a reasonable response. It wouldn’t surprise me that one driver getting caught impacts the travel of hundreds of other drivers.

Granted, getting caught isn’t always the driver’s fault, but the enforcement should be intended to make drivers think a little more and decrease the frequency.

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Yes, once. During a rainstorm in Malaysia the traffic lights went out and the intersection became a free for all. I sat in the car for 15 minutes until the local cop had untangled the mess.

In most countries in such a situation the person on the right has the right of way and you wait your turn to cross the intersection.

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They have signs above certain problematic intersections around here. The signs say “Don’t block the box” and have a graphic of the keep out area. The pavement has the same graphic painted on it. It has had almost no effect on people’s behavior however…

On occassion in areas I am not familair with this has happened to me. In my normal driving I don’t have it happen because I don’t proceed until I can see the intersection is or will clear. Good topic though. In some areas better signage warning of it would be helpful.

Guess what? I just got caught in the middle of an intersection on my way home!
The cause? I was in a line going through a green light when suddenly a schoolbus at the head of the line stopped to let kids off. I couldn’t even see the bus from where I was way back in the line.

Can’t control everything!


You’ll have to turn yourself in. Send the check.

I don’t get this stuck in a box I guess. I have an intersection on the way home, probably 5 lanes wide due to it being an intersection of 3 roads. So I am going southbound, and I have rarely been behind a person that does not pull into the intersection and have bailed out of the turn lane and gone straight after sitting through two light cycles when sitting behind one that does not enter the intersection as there is rarely a break in northbound traffic. Most people pull into the intersection and turn left on yellow or red depending on when the northbound traffic stops entering the intersection.
I am not sure what the law is, but since I have been behind Police cars doing the same thing, I figure it is either legal or ignored.

Some years ago, and I cannot remember which community, it passed such a law. And, the first person nailed was a cop in a cop car.

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How many cars were stuck in the box?

I didn’t count.