County Council Members Supportive of ‘Don’t Block the Box’ Legislation

Bill would allow police to give citations to motorists who fail to clear select intersections in Montgomery County

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The Montgomery County Council members Tuesday voiced support for a bill sponsored by state Del. Al Carr that would make it illegal for drivers in Montgomery County to block an intersection after a light has turned red in the event of a backup.

If passed, police officers would be able to issue citations to drivers at intersections with notifications of the law. The bill includes exceptions that allow drivers to make a right turn on red, or a left turn from a one-way street onto another one-way street.

At Tuesday’s county council meeting, members wanted to know more about how the “block the box” legislation would work.

“Who would determine what intersections would have signage?” asked council member Evan Glass.

Melanie Wenger, the director of the county’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, said the county Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies would make that determination.

Council member Gabe Albornoz said there was one particular intersection of concern to him.

“The intersection of Knowles and Connecticut [Avenues] is the poster child of this legislation,” he said.

Council members Sidney Katz and Craig Rice added that they hoped an additional clause could be added into the bill that would prevent pedestrians from standing in the medians of intersections.

Additionally, Wenger said County Executive Marc Elrich supports the bill, but that he wanted to make sure that violators were only given a fine, without receiving points on their license.

Carr is introducing his “don’t block the box bill” for the third straight year. A number of states, and Washington, D.C., have similar laws. Drivers in the District must pay a $50 fine if they are cited for failing to clear an intersection on a red light.

Carr introduced “don’t block the box” legislation during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, but the bill did not pass the senate in both cases.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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