Driving 101:  What to do when you are stuck in the intersection

With the crazy way the traffic flow is designed in downtown Nashville, you will eventually be stuck in “no man’s land” as I call it.  The most awkward place you will ever find yourself in the traffic patterns when you are stuck in the intersection when the light changes.

Aside from enduring the angry drivers honking and flipping you off, what are your options when you are in that place?

This is more commonly called “blocking the box” and causes gridlock during rush hour commutes.  Some cities enforce harsh penalties for blocking an intersection.  

First, it is good driving practice to not enter the intersection unless you will be able to exit it regardless if the light is green when you enter or not.  Here’s the official rule:

“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.”  

Second, look for options to get out of the intersection but do NOT back up as there may be vehicles behind you or pedestrians crossing.  Try to change lanes or move out of the intersection as safe as you can.  Even if you miss your turn by doing this, you can always re-route yourself.

If you’ve driven in Nashville and exited off of I-40 to turn left onto Broadway, sometimes the left turn can stop without any notice and leave you stranded.  The most important thing is to be patient and scan ahead to assess traffic conditions in front of you.  Which means to stop texting and stay off the phone.  Also, don’t feel any pressure to enter the intersection just because there are other cars behind you – those drivers can wait and they won’t be lining up to pay your fine if you get ticketed.  

If you ignore the situation and get stuck with nowhere to go, just sit there and endure the ire of other drivers.   Enjoy the melody of horns and drivers telling you that you’re #1.

Let me say that all of these rules sound nice if you can follow them but not always easy to follow.  Yesterday, I drove from downtown via West End home after work and even with being alert and following these rules, I nearly got stuck in the intersection four times.  It’s very difficult to follow the rules when the traffic patterns and other drivers are against you.

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