Gridlock Guy: Sifting thru readers’ Atlanta traffic pet peeves

AJC reporter David Wickert asked readers how they would solve Atlanta's traffic mess if given a magic wand. Most who responded said mass transit needs to be expanded, not just to outlying counties but also throughout the state. One reader was quite blunt with her solution: "Get your butt on a bus." More than a few people would create tunnels so drivers who don't need to stop in Atlanta can avoid the area. One reader would better enforce the HOT lanes. Two words: "Ziplines everywhere!"

Knowing what triggers a reader's response to a column is a nebulous thing. Some topics certainly seem like they will galvanize emails and social media comments, but they don't. And then others unexpectedly prompt people to respond. Last week's rampage on drivers that stop in thru lanes to change lanes at the last second certainly sparked some nerves. Many agreed with my ire at inconsiderate lane maneuvers, but also added enough of their own pet peeves to fill an entire other column. Here it is.

» RELATED: Atlanta's traffic mess: Readers offer 'magic wand' solutions

Michael M. emailed in and wondered if people stopping in lanes to prevent missing a turn is a result of inadequate driver’s education in Georgia. He compared driving here to his experience in New England. That certainly could be a factor, but I really believe a reliance on GPS makes people less invested in their commutes. Thus, they aren’t aware of their surroundings as much and make last-minute decisions, as Ken B. wrote in saying. And people have become more selfish, as the bar of consideration has lowered in general.

Jennifer C. vented about several issues, including behavior at a four-way stop: when two people stop at the same time, the person on the right has the right of way. She also is upset about behavior in roundabouts.

“These are designed to keep traffic moving so why are you stopping at the yield sign when no cars are coming?” she said via email. Jennifer added that people do not need to signal entering a traffic circle (since they all move counterclockwise), but “your decision to leave the circle does require a signal, as it indicates to other drivers what you are going to do.”

Donald T. pointed out how red-light behavior affects not just traffic flow, but road capacity. He has been upset about how people do not tighten up to the cars in front of them when stopped at signals.

“Don’t people realize (or care) that this procedure has the same effect as doubling or tripling the number of cars on the road when you consider the amount of usable road space this process takes up?”

Good points.

Fred S. not only bemoaned people who refuse to miss a turn and then stop traffic, but also when — or if — they ever even use turn signals.

“I figure only about 10% of drivers know that (turn signals) are to indicate a driver’s intention. Slowing down, entering a turn lane, and then put on the turn signals makes no sense and is aggravating. Some even come to a stop and then turn them on,” he emailed.

Theresa B. highlighted an opposite problem.

“Notice the actions of drivers when attempting to change lanes while using the indicator to do so. It is so predictable that they will instantly accelerate to prevent you from getting in front of them. This causes accidents.” Courtesy goes both ways, yes.

Patsy B.’s frustration extends past her windshield, as pedestrian traffic impacts her ride in Buckhead.

“So many people just don’t know or refuse to adhere to the laws at crosswalks. And many times I see people crossing Peachtree in front of the MARTA station in Buckhead, where there is no light or crosswalk, while traffic is moving. I don’t believe they have the right of way in that case,” she said. As drivers, we should always treat pedestrians with the right of way, whether they are “right” or not, because if we hit them the consequences are worse for them. Human life is precious, even if it can be inconsiderate and stupid.

John W. highlights the dangers of my personal traffic pet peeve playing out on interstates, such as he saw for many years when people would stop in a thru lane on GA-400 to try to get over to their exit lane to I-285.

A look above the I-285 and I-85 interchange in DeKalb – Spaghetti Junction – during PM drive on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019.
A look above the I-285 and I-85 interchange in DeKalb – Spaghetti Junction – during PM drive on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019.

“This tactic clogged the lane next to the exit lane, forcing other drivers to shift to their left to avoid being struck — dangerous.” He noted how the new interchanges and C.D. lanes in the area won’t stop the behavior; it will just shift the tactic backwards. True. Those maneuvers by others constantly stop traffic and actually caused someone to rear-end me in that spot on GA-400/southbound years ago.

Finally, Charles W. wondered about enforcement.

“Am I the only one who never sees the police or state patrol on the interstates? They always show up for accidents, but I wonder how many accidents would be prevented if there was regular enforcement of speed and traffic laws on the expressways?” While this is a fair point, a better question may be how can the government better fund law enforcement to deploy them more readily? The truth is, they can do a better job both enforcing the law and spending tax money more tactfully. But even with twice the budget, there will always be a lot of traffic and plenty of violators. And traffic stops (flashing lights) can also cause more traffic.

We may not have accomplished much in airing these grievances, but at least we drew awareness to a few more flies in the traffic ointment. Still, unselfishness, defensive driving, and patience can help solve most of these violations and annoyances.

» RELATED: Photos: Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on Contact him at

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