Don’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection. You can get a ticket

Don’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection. You can get a ticket

Have you ever been driving through in intersection, and have the car in front of you stop, leaving you stuck in the middle of the intersection? You are not alone. However, it is your responsibility not to let this happen to you. You cannot enter an intersection before you know you can clear it. (That includes creeping out into the intersection on a left turn, but that is another traffic issue for another traffic safety article.)

This article is about ORS 811.290 Obstructing Cross Traffic. It states:

(1) A person commits the offense of obstructing cross traffic if the person is operating a vehicle and the person enters an intersection or a marked crosswalk when there is not sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians.

(2) The offense described in this section applies whether or not a traffic control device indicates to proceed.

(3) The offense described in this section, obstructing cross traffic, is a Class D traffic violation, which carries a $115 fine.

As you can read, section (1) states you have to be clear of not just the lane for cross traffic but the crosswalk as well. The crosswalks are designed to allow pedestrians safer crossing, but if your vehicle is blocking the crosswalk, it forces the pedestrians out into traffic.

When drivers get stopped for this, they often state, “But my light was green?” Section (2) states the offense happens whether or not a traffic control device indicates to proceed.

When people obstruct cross traffic, it not only causes delays for cross traffic, it can make other drivers very upset. That can lead to other drivers making poor decisions. They may drive into oncoming traffic to get around the vehicle. They may make unsafe or unsignalled lane changes, cutting off other drivers. They may race through the intersection running a yellow or even a red light, because they were delayed.

The best way to avoid this is to pay attention to not just the car in front of you, but to watch what is happening on the other side of the intersection.

As a driver what should you do if you are in this situation? You have a few of choices. First, stay calm. Hopefully, the traffic in front of you clears before your traffic light goes red. If it doesn’t, don’t do anything without make sure you can do it safely. It is better to do nothing and be safe then do something and get into a crash. If there are two lanes going in the same direction, is the other lane next to you open and is it safe to get into it? If you decide to get into the other lane, understand you are making an illegal lane change, as the law requires you to signal 100 feet before making a lane change. You have to decide is obstruction cross traffic worse than an illegal lane change? Both could get you a ticket.

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