Gridlock Guy: Summertime needs for Captain Herb’s ‘Three Cs’

Summer’s steamy dog days have had a grip on Atlanta for weeks, Tuesday’s solstice notwithstanding. Traffic idles during the afternoon grind home on steamy blacktops, with full-blast ACs pushing cars’ fortitudes to their edges and pushing out more haze-worsening exhaust. And just when frustrations in gridlock hit a fever pitch, storms pop up that make the backups worse.

Traffic during the summer swoon can often feel like it’s in “wash, rinse and repeat” mode, but patterns actually are less predictable. With vacations, the aforementioned afternoon storms, and more road work, slow zones arise in different places. And the lack of delays in some spots sometimes actually creates crashes when unexpectedly fast traffic meets the slow stuff.

The WSB Traffic Team and I have noticed a few trends or oddities of late and each could have been remedied by application of Captain Herb Emory’s “Three Cs.” Emory reported on Atlanta traffic and flew over it for more than 30 years and would often tell listeners to use caution, courtesy and common sense.

Sometimes when people are heat-delirious and fed up, their brains evaporate like the ice in their drinks. So here are some quick examples how drivers could each better apply the “three c’s”.

Caution

Driving in work zones is tricky, especially inside the long-lasting GA-400/I-285 one. And in this jungle gym of narrow lanes, newly placed exits and sometimes nonexistent shoulders, small mistakes can easily happen and cause big delays. Drivers have to be even more careful in cone zones.

Last Wednesday evening, a dump truck and two cars made contact on GA-400/southbound near Abernathy Road (Exit 5), where the travel lanes bow out to the right and are extremely narrow. The car to the left of the truck somehow drove up over the passenger side of the car to its left.

The fracas left only a left lane open of GA-400/southbound and authorities took longer than normal to respond. There is little doubt that the topography of the road in that work zone was a contributor to the wreck. A little bit of caution by those three drivers could have saved plenty of headaches.

Courtesy

A couple of weeks ago, we covered the importance of steering-and-clearing crashes and the frustrating insanity of not doing so. Participants in a minor fender bender in DeKalb County on Monday afternoon did a horrible job of this — with a twist … and with the “help” of law enforcement.

A small wreck sat in the second left lane of I-85/northbound near Chamblee Tucker Road (Exit 94). Strike one: The drivers didn’t try to move to the left or right shoulders. Strike two: They got out of their cars. Strike three: DeKalb PD showed up and did not help the drivers move the cars. Strike four: A second police car showed up and blocked the lane next to the two cars, but still did not hasten the drivers to leave the interstate.

If you’re keeping track, over one strikeout has already taken place at this scene.

Then a HERO operator arrived to clear these cars and, as they blocked the entirety of I-85/northbound, to move the two driveable machines, one of the drivers realizes he is locked out of their car. Strike five.

Eventually, while all lanes stayed closed for about ten minutes, the operator got the door open and both drivers moved to the side. I-85 was jammed back several miles.

Some courtesy and thought of other drivers by those in that crash would again have saved another big backup in the heat. Big whiff.

Common sense

Fuel prices are surging and people undoubtedly are milking their gas tanks for every morsel of petrol, which doesn’t do a thing to save money and leads to vehicles running out of gas. Add in the fact that running the AC on high hurts fuel mileage and taxes engines and the table is set for more car problems.

In this extreme heat, people are pushing cars to their limits and we are seeing more vehicle fires and stalls, which do nothing but create more delays and increase the likelihood for more fires and stalls.

Drivers need to make sure car maintenance is up to date and to try and keep gas tanks above a quarter tank. Both steps create buffers in case they hit unexpected backups and need to push those accessories for longer in these tough conditions.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.