The above traffic sign warning against blocking the box or gridlocking has been rendered partially obsolete. For as long as I have been fighting New York traffic tickets (over 20 years), VTL Section 1175 prohibiting drivers from blocking an intersection was a moving violation which carried two points. Obstructing traffic at intersection in NYC involves entering an intersection when there is insufficient room beyond the far cross walk to accommodate the motorist’s car. Gridlock violation does not apply, however, to turning motorists, only those attempting to go across an intersection and obstruct traffic.
This all changed on July 7, 2008 when gridlocking in New York City was given a dual status in New York. That is, it can still be a moving violation (as in years past) and also a parking ticket made a parking ticket which carries no points. The good news is, of course, that, if you charged under the new parking law, you will not get points or adverse insurance consequences if you get caught in an intersection blocking traffic. Instead, you’ll just owe a fine without any other consequences.
The bad news is that there are now literally 2,800s more city enforcement agents out there that are eligible to issue you a ticket for this offense. You see only police officers can issue moving violations but traffic agents (formerly known as “brownies”) can issue parking tickets for this “new” type of ticket. The $90 minimum fine has also been raised to $115.
The real interesting issue involves the discrepancy between blocking the box in New York City versus the rest of the state. That is, it is legal to penalize motorists unequally within the State for the same offense? While this issue has not been addressed in the courts, you can bet that at some point an equal protection argument will be raised challenging this uneven treatment of motorists.
Please note, however, if the officer issues you the summons under NYC Traffic Regulation 4-07(b)(2) entitled “Spillback” you are being charged with a moving violation. This regulation provides that no “operator shall enter an intersection and its crosswalks unless there is sufficient unobstructed space beyond the intersection and its crosswalks in the lane in which he/she is traveling to accommodate the vehicle, notwithstanding any traffic control signal indication to proceed.” Generally, we still recommend fighting spillback tickets as they carry 2 points and can potentially affect your insurance rates.
For now, enter crowded intersections at your own risk.