Minnesota drivers should keep four words in mind before hitting the roads in 2011: Don't block the box.

A new law takes effect Saturday that prohibits drivers from entering an intersection if they are unable to pass completely through without blocking cross traffic -- sometimes referred to as "blocking the box." The gridlock-fighting measure, already law in other states, is one of several new laws passed by the Legislature that will hit the books on Jan. 1.

Other new laws will give patients time to pay for health care treatment, supply child support collectors with more options to reach nonpaying parents and set up a new method for homeowners to resolve disputes with contractors.

The penalty for blocking an intersection? Representatives of the state, Hennepin County and Minneapolis were unable to say yet just what it will be. But violating the law is not grounds for suspension or revocation of a drivers license.

"It's really common sense," said Minnesota State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske. "You shouldn't enter an intersection if you can't get through it. But unfortunately that common sense isn't always practiced."

Health insurance companies can no longer prevent health care providers from collecting deductibles or coinsurance from patients before or at the time or treatment, according a new law partly sponsored by Lt. Gov.-elect Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth. The legislation also specifies that providers cannot withhold treatment to health insurance enrollees because patients have not already paid that coinsurance or deductible.

Child support collectors looking for parents in arrears will now have the right to access mobile telephone numbers and e-mail addresses to aid in their search. Previously, collectors were limited to land line phone numbers, residence addresses and various other relevant information.

Having a home warranty dispute with a builder or contractor? The state has created new avenues to settle your differences. Beginning Jan. 1, contractors will have slightly more than a month to inspect and repair their work before homeowners can move forward with a lawsuit. If no agreement is reached, the Department of Labor and Industry will keep a list of "qualified neutrals" who can weigh in on a dispute to avoid a lawsuit.

The neutral will issue a non-binding determination which, if agreed to, would be considered a settlement. It is not, however, admissible in court.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732