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Baltimore traffic cops give four $125 tickets on first morning of 'Block the Box' fines

Baltimore traffic enforcement officers handed out four $125 tickets at the intersection of Baltimore and Light streets Monday morning, on the day the new “Don’t Block the Box” fine went into effect for drivers obstructing intersections with their vehicles, officials said.

The fines, which can be issued by city police and the Department of Transportation’s traffic squad, are intended to deter drivers from pulling into an intersection during a yellow light and blocking traffic, a consistent problem that makes traffic backups worse.

The law applies citywide, although the issue is largely a complaint among drivers and pedestrians downtown, where traffic packs onto Pratt, Lombard, Baltimore, Charles, Light and Calvert streets as people commute to and from work.

The fines are a result of legislation sponsored by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young in June. Under the legislation, the $125 fine is being enforced, instead of a $90 state fine, plus a point on the driver’s license, or an unenforced $250 fine on the city’s books.

Baltimore Police and city traffic enforcement officers also were stationed at three downtown intersections during the afternoon rush Monday. They were at Charles and Saratoga, Pratt and Calvert, and Lombard and Light streets, according to German Vigil, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation.

The traffic officers mostly kept the intersections clear themselves, holding up traffic when it stacked up to prevent the box from being blocked.

When a driver in a black Infiniti stopped in the crosswalk at Pratt and Light streets, one of the traffic officers walked behind the car, snapped a photo and plugged the license plate number into her ticketing device.

The process, which also included the officer’s taking a photo of the intersection’s street signs, took a matter of moments — and there was no interaction between the officer and the driver.

Ikea Pulley, of West Baltimore, said she sees drivers block the intersections all the time as she walks through downtown to catch her buses.

Pulley doubts that even the new fine will deter people in a hurry from trying to catch the yellow lights.

“It’s every day,” she said. “Somebody always do it.”

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