During heavy traffic, some drivers may stop their cars in the intersection or the crosswalk when the light turns red. The name for this is “blocking the box.”
Blocking the box can impede traffic on the cross street. When it blocks the crosswalks, it can also impede pedestrians. This can be dangerous, especially when the pedestrians use wheelchairs.
How does blocking the box affect pedestrians in wheelchairs?
The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that city sidewalks have curb ramps at intersections that allow people in wheelchairs to get on and off the sidewalk to cross the street. When motorists block the sidewalk, they can also block the curb ramp. As a result, a pedestrian in a wheelchair may be unable to cross the street or, upon crossing, may be unable to get back onto the sidewalk.
What, specifically, makes blocking the box so dangerous?
When a vehicle is blocking the box while a person in a wheelchair is trying to cross the street, the latter can become trapped in the intersection. Without access to the curb ramp, there is nowhere for a person in a wheelchair to go but back onto the street in the midst of traffic to get out of the intersection.
KIRO News reports that, compared to people without disabilities, people in wheelchairs are 33% more likely to die in pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles. Not all of these deaths occur due to blocking the box, but most of them do occur at intersections.
Blocking the box certainly makes it more difficult for people in wheelchairs to cross the street safely. As a result, they could be at a greater risk for a collision with a motor vehicle that could result in death or serious injury.