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Blocking an intersection is illegal

June 16, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Driving is filled with daily frustrations, but one of the most irritating ones is when you cannot proceed on a green light when vehicles are blocking the road you must cross because of traffic backup. Another situation is when you want to turn left onto a street but you can't because vehicles headed the other way are backed up into your intersection from a red light at another intersection.

In the accompanying photograph of the intersection of Amsden St. and W. Main St. in the Village of Malone, the vehicles pictured heading toward the right (westbound) are all stopped because of traffic backed up from the traffic signal at the corner of Brewster St. However, they essentially "blocked" this intersection. If an eastbound vehicle on W. Main wanted to turn left onto Amsden, they would not be able to do so, and therefore would have contributed further to traffic tie-up by blocking the inside eastbound lane while they waited for the vehicles to clear the intersection in order to complete their turn.

Although this happens more frequently in bigger cities, there are several intersections locally where this problem occurs. In Malone, in addition to the Amsden St. problem, westbound traffic on W. Main St., waiting for the light at Finney Blvd., sometimes backs up past Ft. Covington St. If drivers block that intersection, it prevents an eastbound vehicle from turning left onto Ft. Covington Street. Also, sometimes eastbound Main Street traffic, waiting for the light at Elm Street, block egress from Harrison Street.

In Saranac Lake, westbound Bloomingdale Avenue traffic sometimes blocks Margaret Street while waiting for the light at Church Street (Route 86). Another problem area in this village is when westbound traffic on River Street backs up past St. Bernard Street when waiting for the traffic signal at the corner of Main Street. An additional problem at this location develops when westbound River Street traffic wanting to turn left on Main St. toward the village offices runs the two-way left turn (TWLT) lane before it becomes a dedicated left turn lane. This is in violation of the proper use of a TWLT lane.

Blocking an intersection as described above is in violation of paragraph 1175 of Vehicle and Traffic Law, which basically prohibits a motorist from entering an intersection, whether the intersection is controlled by a traffic signal or not, when vehicular traffic is stopped on the opposite side unless there is adequate space on the opposite side to accommodate your vehicle. Often a regulatory sign such as "Do Not Block Intersection" is used to remind motorists of this law.

An exception to this is if you are going to make a left turn, in which case you are allowed to enter the intersection and wait for a break in oncoming traffic or for oncoming traffic to stop because the light changed, and then complete your turn. Only one vehicle at a time is allowed to enter the intersection for this purpose.

To see all the articles on traffic law and traffic safety, go to the traffic safety board's website under "Departments" at:



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