Don’t enter the box

The mayor of Hartford called it “common sense” that drivers shouldn’t block intersections. If it’s common sense, why didn’t he have police enforce the law earlier? Because there wasn’t any money in it. Now there is.

With two exceptions, Connecticut municipal police can’t write tickets for revenue.

They’ll do what I call “squeaky wheel” enforcement, to quiet residents who complain about “speeders”. They’ll pull you over for dangerous driving. They’ll pull you over to seize the drugs they think you have. They’ll pull you over just because they don’t like you.

But for the most part they are not trying to help the city budget, because the city only gets $10 per moving violation. The state keeps the rest.

I wrote before about one exception. School bus cameras weren’t worthwhile until a change in law allowed corporations to profit from tickets.

The new exception is “blocking the box” tickets. Hartford and some other cities now get to keep half the revenue. That’s enough to get the mayor to order police to start collecting money.

They will be able to raise as much revenue as they want, because 90% or more of drivers violate the law. We’re talking 55 mph speed limit levels of compliance.

First, let’s see how to write the law correctly. In Massachusetts, General Laws chapter 89 section 9 prohibits blocking the intersection. You haven’t violated the law unless you get trapped and the light changes.

Connecticut statute 14-250b prohibits entering an intersection before the car ahead of you has cleared the far crosswalk with enough room for your car. No matter if that car is moving and the road ahead of it is clear.

In moving traffic you have to leave a 100 foot gap — four travel lanes, two parking lanes, two crosswalks, plus the length of your car. When the light turns green and the car ahead of you starts, you have to wait for it to get 100 feet away before you can start moving.

Nobody will obey this law because it’s stupid, not “common sense.” But it’s the law, and police have been ordered to ticket.

This law cuts intersection capacity in half. If police enforced the law as written they would lock up traffic around downtown.

Police will enforce the law like they enforce the speed limit. They’ll write as many tickets as the mayor needs for the city budget, and then go back to using the law for harassment just like any other traffic law.

I’m sure not all of the state lawmakers who did this understood what they were doing. Some must have thought they only were giving some of your money to their friends in city government, not allowing police to ticket everybody.

“Your honor, I thought I was stealing a million dollars instead of ten million.” Try that next time you’re on trial. Cite Model Penal Code 2.04(2). Let me know from prison how it works out.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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