What is a Traffic Break?

California traffic break

Many CA drivers are not familiar with the “traffic break” concept. This means that when the traffic breaks occur, many drivers are clueless to what’s going on. Unfortunately, this leads to unsafe situations between drivers and traffic patrol officers. Let’s take a minute to learn what a traffic break is, why they occur, how they’re performed, and what to do if you are involved in one.

So, what is a Traffic Break?

Also known as “rolling roadblocks,” a traffic break is a separation within the traffic flow, on a highway. They can occur naturally, or manually through the use of highway patrol officers. Usually they are performed by highway patrol in order to create a less hazardous driving environment. Essentially, a traffic break is the creation of traffic separation by a traffic patrol officer slowly swerving back and forth across all lanes of a highway, not allowing other vehicles to pass.

Why do Traffic Breaks Occur?

Traffic breaks are typically created in order to clear dangerous areas from traffic. They are a very rare occurrence however, and are only performed if absolutely necessary. If an accident occurs on a highway, there will likely be debris on the road. To clear this debris, traffic breaks alleviate vehicles from endangering traffic patrol officers, or whoever is in charge of clearing the wreckage site. Sometimes a traffic break can be used to allow a stalling vehicle to safely shift over to the shoulder of the highway. In much more rare cases, traffic breaks can occur in order to clear highways for police chase purposes. A get away-vehicle or hit-and-run car is a danger to themselves and others. For this reason, police are known to clear road ways for the interest of public safety, if an unlawful driver is out of control. A traffic break has even been performed for the sake of helping an airplane emergency land on a highway.

How a Traffic Break is Performed

  1. A highway patrol officer arrives at the place where an accident has occurred
  2. The officer radios to a fellow officer, communicating intent to start a traffic break
  3. The second officer merges into traffic before the accident location
  4. This officer turns on sirens and weaves across numerous highway lanes, signaling a traffic break
  5. Drivers behind swerving officer slow down (this officers speed is based on how much time is needed to clear hazardous area)
  6. Officers communicate to clear hazardous area and resume normal traffic flow

What to do in a Traffic Break

The primary intent of traffic patrol officers during a traffic break is to keep traffic flowing. If you are at the front of a traffic break group of vehicles, you will notice a police car or motorcycle swerving across all highway lanes in front of you. It is of the utmost importance that you do not try and pass them. Passing a police officer during a traffic break is highly illegal, and purely dangerous. By attempting to pass an officer during a traffic break, you risk both hitting the swerving officer, and running into people or vehicles clearing the hazardous site ahead. Have you already incurred a penalty from illegally passing an officer during a traffic break? Contact GetDismissed today, to learn about your options.


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