Junctions. Sooner or later (and usually sooner), you’ll have to tackle them. There are T-junctions, crossroads, unmarked junctions, those with traffic lights or filters… some are easier to navigate than others, and one of the more complex types is the box junction.
Confused or worried about approaching the dreaded yellow box? Our guide to navigating them explains just how simple they really are—so long as you know a couple of key box junction rules.
What is a box junction?
Box junctions are indicated by road markings. That’s right—as though sign posts weren’t enough, you’ve also got to look at the ground! The ‘box’ is formed by criss-crossed yellow hatching. It establishes an area that must be kept clear at all times, so that traffic can flow as smoothly as possible.
Box junctions are often found at busy crossroads or T-junctions, where there is likely to be a build-up of traffic. Even junctions controlled by traffic lights can get blocked. What happens when your traffic light is green, but you’re unable to move because there are stationary vehicles lined up across your path? This is where box junctions come in—they are an effective way to control traffic and keep everybody moving.
Box junction rules
Rule 174 of the Highway Code tells us what to do when we come across a box junction. The basic rule is that you are not allowed to stop in the box. To achieve this, you must not enter a box junction unless your exit road is clear. Where you’re turning left or going straight on, this means you’ll be able to drive through the box and get out another side immediately.
So, how does it work in practice? When approaching a box junction, always look at where you’re wanting to go. If there is a stationary line of traffic queued on the road you wish to join, assess whether your car will be able to clear the box before proceeding. If traffic is flowing, check that any vehicles ahead of you can clear the box junction—and be sure that you, too, can make it through.
Top tip for navigating box junctions
Think of box junctions a little like a level crossing. You wouldn’t start to cross the train tracks until you’re certain that your whole car can make it to the other side of the barriers. Otherwise, you may end up trapped in the path of an oncoming train. Box junctions are similar—if you can’t make it across, you might end up in the path of other drivers.
Turning right at a box junction
The only exception to the ‘no stopping in a box junction’ rule is when you are turning right.
You must still make sure your exit road is clear, but you may have to wait for a gap in oncoming traffic before turning. If that’s the case, you’re allowed to wait in the box until it’s safe to turn right.
Get your car into position by driving slowly into the middle of the box, until the point at which you need to start your turn. Make sure you don’t stray across into the path of oncoming traffic, who will be expecting you to be stopped in your lane.
Be careful of following another vehicle turning right into the yellow box. It is allowed, but you might find that you are unable to turn safely before traffic starts to cross from the other direction.
What if your traffic light goes red while you’re waiting to turn right?
As long as you’re waiting to turn right in a box junction when your traffic light turns red, you are still allowed to make your turn. In fact, the safest thing to do is take advantage of the break in traffic before the opposite traffic lights turn green. That way, you won’t be in the way or hold other drivers up.
What if you find yourself stuck in a box junction?
Getting stuck in a box junction is not only against driving law, but can also be highly frustrating for other road users. You’ll find yourself blocking traffic from other directions, which can lead to drivers performing dangerous manoeuvres to avoid you.
If you do find yourself stuck in a box junction, the important thing is not to panic. Be aware of cars coming from different directions—so check all around you before moving off.
Will I get fined if I get stuck in a box junction?
You may well get fined if you get stuck in a box junction. How much you end up paying depends on how quickly you pay, and where in the county you’re caught. In London, you can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £130; elsewhere, the most you’ll be charged is £70.
① Box junctions are indicated by criss-crossed yellow lines painted on the road.
② Always check to see if your path ahead is clear to exit the box junction before entering it, whichever way you’re turning.
③ Stop before the painted yellow lines if your exit road is not clear.
④ Leave enough room behind the vehicle in front to check that you’ll be able to clear the box as well.
⑤ If you’re turning right, drive slowly into position and wait in the box junction until there is a safe gap in oncoming traffic.
Don’t let fear or worry stop you tackling box junctions—check out our helpful tips for driving with anxiety. And if you need a bit of clarity on other rules of the road, check out what to do when you’re faced with a filter traffic light, or see who should go first at an unmarked crossroads.