Joining cities like Philadelphia, New York and Washington D.C., Baltimore next month will begin penalizing drivers who block all or part of the middle of an intersection after the light has changed.
The month of May will serve as a warning period, but after that, drivers will be assessed a $90 ticket that carries a point against the motorist’s driver’s license.
“Motorists who block the box cause traffic congestion, delays and prohibit vehicles from passing through the intersection safely,” said Department of Transportation director Michelle Pourciau on Wednesday. “But also it creates dangerous conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, because they can’t walk safely through crosswalk areas.”
Pourciau said her department will assess when to start giving out tickets after the 30-day trial period.
The new law, passed in Annapolis last year, is part of a larger push to end distracted driving. During her weekly press conference this morning, Mayor Catherine Pugh said Baltimore leads the state in car crashes with a pedestrian, with about one-third of all of Maryland’s crashes happening in the city limits each year.
“We believe that we can decrease that,” she said. “When we talk about public safety, this is certainly one of those areas.”
Advertising campaigns will also discourage using a phone while driving, speeding and red-light running, and encourage safety for cyclists and using a seat belt.
Ragina Cooper Averella, the public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the motor club recently found that nearly half of drivers surveyed said they used a cellphone while driving, even though they know it’s dangerous.
The safety effort is particularly important with more people being outside to enjoy the (eventual) warm weather and children being done with school in a few months, said Pourciau.
“While this is a beautiful time of the year, it is also one of the most dangerous seasons when the highest number of vehicle crashes occur,” she said. “Through our comprehensive campaign, we encourage everyone to share the road, be more aware of always putting safety first as we work towards zero [fatalities] in the city.”
One reporter asked her what would happen if an MTA bus was seen blocking an intersection. There was a knowing laugh in the room, acknowledging what could perhaps be described as a not uncommon sight.
“We will definitely be meeting with MTA about how to carry that out in full,” she said. “That’s a particular concern.”