My five years living in the Chamblee community have made me — Doug the Chamblee Driver, not Doug the WSB Traffic Reporter — very attuned to the idiosyncrasies here.
And one of these details, or rather quirks, has burned my pistons of late. Left turns should be the exception and not the norm.
Chamblee has a main valve in Peachtree Boulevard (formerly Peachtree Industrial), which has adjacent streets of various sizes. Some of those small streets, such as the one where my condo community sits, do not have traffic lights. Their dead ends with Peachtree Blvd. are stop signs.
As an everyday traveler in this DeKalb County city, I know where the traffic lights are. I would not even begin to attempt a left turn from a two-lane street, across three higher-speed lanes and into the fast lane of traffic coming the other way, without the aid of a traffic light.
But non-residents — or maladroit, inattentive locals — routinely block up a lane for sometimes minutes at a time to try to quixotically turn left in these spots.
One reason this happens is because of intellectual ground that most drivers have ceded. Many motorists, including sometimes yours truly, have given up owning the knowledge of their routes and are blindly following GPS programs’ directions. Algorithms are set to find the fastest way, regardless of the topography of streets. The calculus for this software is to send people the shortest way, not taking into account the difficulty of such a left turn. These turns make much more sense on paper … or a digital map.
But considering the size of streets, the speeds of traffic, and the lack of outlets for trailing drivers to turn right should easily lead commuters to decide to never make these turns. However, they do it all the time.
Other drivers have weighed in on traffic issues that have ground their gears. A recent study of UK drivers stated that their biggest annoyance is when other drivers fail to use turn signals. They also generally ranked different types of aggressive driving and cellphone use in the top spots. Poor left turns (rather, right turns in their case) were not on this list.
I wrote about what I considered my biggest traffic pet peeve four years ago, and I would argue it hasn’t changed. People stopping in a thru lane, putting on their turn signal, and holding up traffic so they can get into an exit or turn lane is absolutely ridiculous and dangerous.
AJC readers also wrote to me with their most infuriating traffic sins in 2019 and all had valid points. But none pointed out these lopsided left turns.
I am pitching a niche-y fit, I guess.
Overall, opaquely selfish behavior is what drives me crazy. Many traffic wrongs fall in that category. And while some are unaware that what they are doing is indeed selfish, the obliviousness itself then becomes the issue.
We can blame poor design or turn-by-turn navigation for people trying to turn left from a small side street onto a major thoroughfare. But, really, common sense and safety should lead people to choose to avoid that maneuver.
I have corrected rideshare drivers on this multiple times, as they followed their GPS. They thanked me for it. And I am sure the drivers that would have waited behind us would have, too.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.