LA WATCHDOG--One of the most frustrating things about driving in the City of Los Angeles is when a clueless or inconsiderate driver is unable to make it through the intersection before the light turns red, creating a gridlocked intersection. This results in even more congestion on our City’s already clogged streets, safety issues for both drivers (just ask Venus Williams) and pedestrians, increased pollution, and a bevy of frustrated drivers, many of whom express their displeasure by laying on their horns and making not so polite gestures with their hands and fingers.
But blocking an intersection is a parking violation according to the State’s Anti-Gridlock Act of 1987.
“Notwithstanding any official traffic control signal indication to proceed, a driver of a vehicle shall not enter an intersection or marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or marked crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle driven without obstructing the through passage of vehicles from either side.”
Unfortunately, the City, the Department of Transportation and the Police Department have not done a very good job of enforcing the law as evidenced by numerous blocked intersections throughout the city, especially during rush hour.
Efforts to jumpstart enforcement in 2008, 2012, and 2014, led by former City Councilman, Tom LaBonge, have failed because the City’s bureaucracy (Transportation, Police, and City Attorney) has not been able to develop a workable plan to ease gridlock.
But once again, the City appears to be addressing gridlock as the Mayor’s Budget “instructs the Department of Transportation, with assistance from the Police Department and the City Administrative Officer, to develop and implement a fine structure for parking violations within intersections and a plan for enforcement of such violations by Traffic Control Officers, in line with “Don’t Block the Box” enforcement by Traffic Control Officers in other U.S. cities.”
There are a number of issues to be considered, including the goals of the program, the amount of the fine; the role of parking enforcement officers and the police; whether a ticket results in a moving violation; the use of video cameras to issue citations; legal challenges, especially in the case of “drive away” citations; the public’s reaction to a more aggressive ticketing plan; the impact on traffic and congestion when a ticket is issued; the time differential between the yellow, red, and green lights; the impact of new developments on high volume intersections; and revenue and expense projections.
Most importantly, the City needs to consider the impact of gridlock and the resulting traffic and congestion on the public safety of drivers and pedestrians and the quality of life of Angelenos.
At the same time, the City needs to take into consideration that Angelenos are some of the worst drivers in the country, ranking 193rd out 200 cities in the country according to the Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report. (Not unsurprisingly, Boston was #200, hands down.)
The City is embarking on Vision Zero, a program to eliminate traffic related deaths of drivers and pedestrians. An integral part of this program should be the strict enforcement of our traffic laws, including those that eliminate gridlock and congestion.
It is time for Mayor Garcetti, the City Council, and the City Attorney to get serious. No more Mr. Nice guy, especially when it comes to public safety.
So Don’t Block the Damn Box! Or, you will pay the price with a big fat fine.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)