Ross: Seattle’s ‘block the box’ cameras could end up punishing the wrong drivers

Dec 7, 2021, 6:08 AM | Updated: 11:04 am
Block the box...
New traffic cameras will soon ticket Seattle drivers blocking intersections. (SDOT)

Seattle is installing more cameras to issue tickets to drivers who block intersections and use bus lanes.

If you’re caught on camera blocking the box, you get one free warning; but after that – $75 per violation!

The stated purpose of this pilot project is to make intersections safer for disabled people trying to cross, but there are already objections from several state legislators that it’s just going to punish law-abiding drivers simply for being unlucky. And they have a point.

None of us wants to be the guy who blocks the intersection. Yes, we drove into the box, but that’s because there was a green light, and it looked like the traffic on the other side was going to move, so you make the leap into the open slot. And many times, just as you do, someone takes a free right turn in front of you, and he gets into the slot, and now you’re the bad guy in the box.

Except you are not the bad guy.

I believe that when somebody turns in front of you at a clogged intersection, that’s pass interference, and it needs to be called out. With pass interference in football, you punish the interfering player, not the ball. At the very least, in this case, it should be automatically reviewed in New York before you get a penalty.

Of course, that will never happen.

So how about this: Here we are, on the cusp of 2022, the era of artificial intelligence. There must be a way to program traffic lights so that when the road ahead is about to hit gridlock, instead of a green light deceptively luring drivers into no-man’s-land, the light is smart enough to turn RED! That way people will see it and say to themselves, “Red! That means stop!”

The way it is now, a green light welcomes you into an intersection, then turns red behind your back so you look like a scofflaw!

Which is a bait-and-switch, it’s traffic light fraud. It’s like ordering steak and getting meatloaf.

Then to pile on and fine you $75 for believing the fraudulent traffic light is like ordering steak, getting meatloaf, and being forced to tip.

By the way, I notice the pilot project does not include Mercer Street, which, in my experience, is the epicenter of box-blocking. However, I believe that to be a wise move.

Nobody tells hockey fans how to drive.

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Ross: Seattle’s ‘block the box’ cameras could end up punishing the wrong drivers