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Gridlock Guy: My ultimate pet peeve behind the wheel

Commuting patterns have changed in this bustling metropolis and so have individual driving habits. The rush hour flows have evolved with the changes in population and the spreading out of commerce centers. Job hubs exist in many areas across Metro Atlanta, so drive time demand doesn’t point just mainly to Downtown Atlanta. But while traditional rush hour commutes have evolved, driving practices have devolved.

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I want to hone in on a particular behind-the-wheel-maneuver that I anecdotally have determined may be one of the biggest negative changes I have seen in drivers. I absolutely cannot stand when people stop short in a lane and wait until a gap in the next lane to get over, so they can make a turn. This chaps my [bumper] and conjures up a disgust in me that I should probably reserve for reports about genocide and molestation.

Pulling such a move, first off, is dangerous. When a motorist suddenly realizes they need to turn and then they abruptly slow or stop, that can cause an accordion effect behind them. When they do this in the left lane, the pause is even more abrupt because the trailing drivers aren’t really expecting that dead stop to happen in a passing lane. The danger becomes more so when the inconvenienced drivers then scurry out of the left lane and into the next one. Those maneuvers can be out of frustration, so aggression levels rise and crashes become more likely. All of this starts with one driver deciding that they had to turn right then, rules and courtesy be damned.

Stopping in the wrong lane to make a turn is also highly inconsiderate. Those that do so appear to be cruising around in opaque bubbles, with zero cares about who or what is going on around them. While missing a turn is a bummer, rectifying that small foible is not worth the delays and danger created. Stopping a through lane of traffic and slowing others’ progress to help better one’s own is a basic building block of selfishness.

As I’ve stated many times before in this column, our traffic ecosystem works best when we drive around others as we want others to drive around us. Driving with an all out “me” approach goes at direct odds with easing the city’s gridlock. We have to cut each other breaks, drive defensively, and drive alert to avoid causing extra crashes and delays. Stopping in a passing lane to turn completely contradicts this philosophy.

Other behaviors of ours have laid the groundwork for inconsiderate driving. Walking slowly down, say, a sidewalk or a store aisle and texting slows the progress of others. Not being ready in a fast food line because of being on the phone is another selfish move. The proliferation of phone use goes hand-in-hand with “bubble behavior.” I am guilty of it.

In the very moment of replying to a text or Facebook comment, doing those things seems more important than being considerate. The reason social media and smartphones are so successful is at least partly because of the dopamine that digital social interaction produces. Prioritizing phone use above driving attentiveness is why the state enacted the new Hands-Free Georgia Act last July.

On a more macro level, we need to shake off the idea that what we want is always most important. The byproduct of that self-centeredness can be more than annoying and angering; it can be deadly.

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Getting around roundabouts shouldn't throw you for a loop

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 wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

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