Under a bad sign: Halloween fell on Friday in 2003 (above) and 2008 and will again befall Friday this year. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM

Halloween traffic will be a fright

Something wicked this way comes, and it’s not just the little candy-groping ghouls and goblins who will be out Halloween night.

Experts say afternoon traffic will be more gruesome than usual because the holiday falls on a Friday this year. Parents may think getting off work early will spare them the misery of gridlock, but they’re wrong — mostly because everyone else has the same idea.

The afternoon rush always gets ugly on Halloween, but it’s likely to sprout warts much earlier than usual, with the worst congestion likely between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale. Traffic should drop off dramatically after 6 p.m.

GDOT provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with data about traffic conditions on interstates around town from last year, when Halloween fell on a Thursday.

The worst slowdowns a year ago were at:

  • The Downtown Connector at 5th Street, which crawled along at less than 20 mph between 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.
  • Ga. 400 North at Abernathy Road — under 30 mph between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
  • I-75 at Delk Road — under 30 mph between 4:15 and 6 p.m.
  • I-285 Westbound at Riverside Drive — at or below 35 mph between 4:45 and 6 p.m.

Some workers plan to beat the curse of Halloween commuting by not driving Friday, or even working.

Traffic was so bad last year that it took Mary Wilson Williams, of Decatur, an hour to travel six miles from her job at Emory University to her home in Decatur. The trip usually takes just 15 minutes. This year, she’s not even going to try to beat it.

“My boyfriend and I both took the day off, and we’re going to go to Netherworld,” Williams said.

The prospect of a particularly frightful commute has many Atlantans adjusting their schedules.

Inspect-All Services, a Conyers home inspection company, is letting its 35 employees off by 4 p.m., company president Brian Lunsford said.

“We not only want our team to get home to see their families in a timely manner, but we also want them to have the luxury of traveling with fewer vehicles on road, which translates to a safer journey,” Lunsford said.

Sunset on Friday will be at 6:46 p.m., though a lot of young trick-or-treaters will be knocking on doors earlier.

Chamblee resident Judy George, who works at a travel agency near Perimeter Mall, said she volunteers to work the late shift ending at 8 p.m. every year just so she can avoid traffic.

“I know come 8 p.m., trick-or-treating should be mostly done with,” said George.

WSB Radio afternoon airborne traffic reporter Doug Turnbull predicted the rush period could start as soon as noon or 1 p.m. this year, “which we have seen even on non-holiday Fridays,” he said.

A few ways to do your part to ease the delays are to telecommute, ask your employer for flex hours, or just wait until after 6 p.m. to head for home, Turnbull recommended.

Also, consider carpooling or taking public transportation. If you must drive, GDOT advises you check 511 or traffic maps to determine where congestion is heaviest, and have a back-up route in mind.

Also, remember to drive slowly, turn on your lights and be cautious when in residential areas where costume-clad kids could be walking.

“If you are rushing home to get your little trick-or-treater ready, or you’re heading home to hand out candy, the most important thing is to be safe and aware on the roads,” Dale said.

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