‘Blocking the box’ of intersections now carries fines in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s now the law in Rhode Island: do not enter an intersection unless you’re sure you can get out of it on the other side, whether by crossing straight across or turning.

In many cities it’s known as “blocking the box,” where the box is bordered by the four streets of an intersection – too many people enter the intersection but then are stuck in it because traffic has not cleared on the other side. Rhode Island lawmakers have now outlawed the traffic-jamming practice.

One of the law’s co-sponsors, Rep. Charlene Lima, D-Cranston, said there’s now a campaign on to have municipalities identify problem areas.

“They will have to paint these types of lines at the intersections” — illustrating the “box” — “and they will have to post a sign so that the public will know they are not to enter the box until they can clear it,” she said Monday.

The law was passed by the General Assembly last June, and became law in September without Gov. Gina Raimondo’s signature. The law took effect Jan. 1.

“What happens is, now you’re sitting here, sometimes through two red lights, even three at some of these bad areas – and traffic gets all jammed up. There’s congestion,” Lima said. She added she’s excited to see law enforcement crack down on the frustrating driving habit.

“I think the campaign, ‘do not block the box,’ will make the public aware that they should not be doing this, and that it’s a safety problem. I think it’s going to work,” she said.

Being ticketed for the first violation carries a $100 fine. The second, $250; the third and every subsequent violation, $500.