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The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • Last week, we discussed the importance of the Safety Patrol program in Georgia schools. These belt-decorated student leaders help ensure their fellow students’ safety and serve as a reminder for drivers to behave cautiously around school zones. But commuter behavior extends well past the school grounds and is arguably even more impactful around school buses. “The most important factor in regards to bus safety is just, first of all, being aware,” saidLt. Tony Lockard, a Student Resource Officer for Gwinnett County Schools Police Department. Lockard is Gwinnett’s West Zone Commander, so his coverage area includes some of the worst traffic hot spots in the county: parts of Norcross, Duluth and Lilburn. And when traffic is bad, driver-patience is thin. Impatience and distractions compromise safety around school buses. At a AAA “School’s Open - Drive Carefully” media event in Gwinnett, Lockard stands in front of one of the county’s 1,800 school buses. He says that the early dawn hours are especially dangerous. Students are running to their buses, maybe they’re late, and they’re possibly not looking before crossing the road. Gwinnett’s large population shares a critical responsibility in helping avoid tragedy. “[Gwinnett Schools] is the fourth-largest district in the nation,” Lockard shares. Let that set for a minute. Fourth-largest in the U.S.A. Just seeing a bus in motion, he says, should trigger a driver’s awareness to slow down soon. “When the bus does slow and the yellow-amber lights come on, that’s indicating the bus is about to stop.” This does not mean motorists should speed up to beat the stopping bus. “It’s like a traffic signal, it’s a warning.” While Gwinnett bus drivers do a great job checking to see that all vehicles have stopped before opening the doors, drivers have to obey the laws. In case there is any ambiguity as to when drivers have to stop for buses, Lockard is enthusiastic to share it. “When you see the amber lights come on, you need to slow down and be prepared to stop. When the stop arm comes out, you have to stop and wait for that bus to start proceeding again.” He continues, “If you’re behind the bus, no matter what the roadway looks like, you have to stop.” One exception does make the law tricky. “If you’re on the opposite side of the road, going the opposite direction, the only time you do not have to stop, is if it is a divided highway with, say, a concrete or grassy median.” And, Lockard says, “If there’s a center turn lane [but no median], you still have to stop.” For those worrying how Gwinnett enforces this law, they have more than manpower. Approximately 300 of Gwinnett County Schools’ buses have stop light cameras, which are supposed to capture every vehicle that stops - but especially the ones that do not. Gwinnett piloted the program in the fall of 2014 and went active with it in 2015. “The camera is buffering pretty much the entire time, which means it is recording the entire time. When the bus driver activates the red signal, then it stops the buffering and starts the recording. If anyone violates and goes past the bus when the stop lights are on and the the stop arm is out, it will record that violation.” If the offending motorist has a question as to just how much they violated the law, Lockard says the camera knows. “It has a timer on it and it will indicate on that timer how long the yellow-amber lights have been flashing for and indicate how long the red lights will be on for.” That should teach the violating driver a good lesson and the program should be an omen to others to give a wide berth to stopped buses and walking kids. Laws, initiatives and technology aside, we as motorists all share the burden in preserving the lives of those most vulnerable in our society: children. Save a few weeks and snow days, school is back in until May. That’s nine months. Let’s slow down, stop, keep our eyes on the road and make this the safest school year ever for Georgia kids. Then, with less wrecks and investigations, there are less road blockages and traffic improves. Everyone wins. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne 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
  • Every metro Atlanta school system has thrown open the doors and cranked up the buses for the 2017-2018 school year. And rain has drearily cloaked some of the first busy school-time rush hours, making traffic worse and conditions more dangerous for kids getting to school. Fortunately, one mainstay in school safety holds strong: the AAA School Safety Patrols program. On the Thursday before the start of the school year, AAA’s Georgia Field VP Sasha Marcincyzk, spokesperson Garrett Townsend and several public officials gathered to share their “School’s Open - Drive Carefully” campaign. The yellows of the buses and the School Safety Patrol belts shown bright. AAA established the Safety Patrols program in the 1920s. I got to wield the belt and badge my 6th grade year at Sagamore Hills Elementary in DeKalb 20 years ago. And I spent much of that time telling fellow students to tow the silver line in the halls, while some my fellow patrollers had more exciting duties in the carpool lane. 14-year-old Alyce Washington is Georgia’s Safety Patroller of the Year and has helped maintain order outside and inside her Clayton County school. “I just want to ensure that everybody is safe, because looking down at your phone and seeing a text message can really hurt somebody. So I just want to help everybody help themselves,” a wise-beyond-her-years Washington says. “We make sure that students are looking at signs and looking both ways when crossing the street and following the rules of AAA.” AAA data shows that children ages five to 14 are the highest risk age group for pedestrian injury. Washington has this message for fellow students. “You know…one wrong step…” She makes a tragic clicking sound. Life can change on a dime. “AAA School Safety Patrol plays an important role in helping young pedestrians learn and fulfill responsibilities regarding traffic safety,” Townsend explains. There are over 17,000 Safety Patrollers in Georgia. Safety patrols’ bright neon-yellow belts, Washington says, act in the same way an amber “25 mph speed limit” beacon acts. They are an extra reminder for passersby to slow down in that school zone. Marcincyzk says that children hit by cars traveling 35 mph are three times more likely to die than at 25 mph. Slow as that school speed limit is, the law makes sense and Safety Patrols are a living, walking reminder of it. As far as being Georgia’s Patroller of the Year, Washington got selected first by her school and then won a statewide essay contest. AAA selects the winners not just based on how they patrol, but on how well-rounded they are as citizens and students. Washington explains that being a patroller has taught her a lot and, now, so has being an ambassador for the whole state. “I have never done all of this,” she sheepishly says during our interview. “This is kind of new to me. I’m kind of shy. It has benefited me, because I’m helping others.” As Washington moves to high school, she will shed that bright yellow belt (mine in 1997 was a moderately flat orange), as new patrollers assume their positions worldwide. AAA says over 30 countries have emulated the program. The back to school season may be of little importance to those without kids, but every commuter should care. We all share a responsibility in doing what we can behind the wheel to keep students safe. As driving adults, we should take ownership in school safety, as Washington and other patrollers do. Next week, we will explore school bus traffic laws and what Gwinnett County has in place to enforce them even better.
  • The middle my family’s summer vacation landed us in the desert city of Marrakesh, Morocco. This northern African hub is unlike anything we have seen. The rustic Old City, or Medina, where locals and tourists both converge is every bit as busy as a modern city. The busyness - and craziness - of Marrakesh keeps commuters of all kinds literally on their toes and we Atlantans learned quite a lot. Narrow, mostly-paved or stone roads sinew between short mud-rock buildings and those buildings open up as small shops and cafes on the busier streets. One gets around by landmarks and not by street names, which are not prominently displayed and change on a dime (or 10 dirhams). But the biggest challenges to commuting through Marrakesh are the unknown variables that emerge. A walk down a tiny, crowded passage will also include expert scooter riders, bicyclists, motorists or donkey-carriage drivers powering by patiently, but unforgivably. Locals are quick to tell visiting pedestrians to stay as far to the right as possible; there are no sidewalks. Those on wheels take their time chugging through, but they expect the many pedestrians to move. Old city Marrakesh’s rush hour is largely on foot. When the air finally tempers below 110 degrees, the plaza and streets bloom even more — and there is little contrast between regular roads and the packed bazaar. Shop fronts crowd with local women picking over discounted clothes and scarves. Homes are too hot to stay confined within, so the town’s blood is out. A quarter-mile stroll to a restaurant can take 15 minutes. This hustle and constant awareness is exhilarating and eye-opening for foreigners, but it is by no means relaxing. Walking in this crowd means constantly looking back for scooters, ahead for oncoming people, dodging shop displays, being mindful of pickpockets and juking away from those who stop suddenly to shop. It’s harder than driving in a mall parking lot on Dec. 23. Be constantly aware. The bigger roads surrounding the Medina area are almost as chaotic. Moroccans seem to drive with limited rules. Scooters, taxis, trucks and horse-drawn carriages share lanes (though there are supposed designated lanes for the slower ones). This controlled anarchy also means that drivers have to slow their speeds and be prepared for any kind of last-second maneuvers. It’s an environment of eat or be eaten. But people don’t seem to take slights in traffic as personally as do we in Atlanta. The bigger roads and market streets present constant “sins,” but Moroccans are moving so quickly and effortlessly, they have no time to stew on these or flip the bird to the jerk who almost ran over their foot. Most locals I noticed were busy doing, not feeling. Our commuting system in Atlanta is far better. But our commuting habits are not. Most of us wouldn’t go a week without a wreck in chaotic Marrakesh, if we drove or walked as distracted as we do back home. And our blood pressure would shoot to Moroccan Farenheit levels, if we took personally the maneuvers some Marrakesh drivers make. My mentor, Captain Herb Emory, always championed using his “Three C’s” on the roads: caution, courtesy, and common sense. We needed and saw copious amounts of all three to get around safely in Marrakesh and could go to take a deep breath and employ them more in Atlanta. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne 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
  • My family travels abroad at least once a year and doing so easily conjures up the brain drain of “Back home, this would never be successful,” or “They are just so (insert the positive adjective) here.” The truth is that if we added up the pros and cons of the USA or Atlanta and compared them to any place we have been, our opinions would show far more nuance. That said, the commuting options and habits in both Madrid and Barcelona, Spain recently taught us quite a bit. First, there are multiple transit options. Madrid and Barcelona both have extensive entanglements of metro train lines and the trains run like tops. In the heart of Downtown Barcelona, for example, trains arrive every two or three minutes during the day and they are often packed. We never rode an empty metro car in either city. And there are substantial reasons for that. Walking and taking train and bus are not only necessities, but they are cultural in these densely- populated cities. The roads still have plenty of traffic, but they definitely could not handle the majority of the city’s residents taking their cars individually from place to place, like we do in Atlanta. There also is no need for that. In Barcelona especially, each neighborhood has its own — almost everything. We stayed on a small street, Carre d’Asturies, that has at least three fresh veggie markets, clothing stores, several restaurants and cafes, a pharmacy, at least two gelato stands, and some more specialty shops. The residents live above and around all of this bustle and the Fontana Metro stop sits at the end of the street. The only thing missing is a gas station. And when people in the Gracia neighborhood do need to go elsewhere, the Metro is convenient and has very small distances between each stop. This chops walking bouts into manageable distances and the walking keeps many Barcelonans in shape. And vast bus systems in both Barcelona and Madrid fill in the gaps between the Metro lines and stops. One argument against this model being viable in Atlanta is simply that urban sprawl leaves too much ground for rail to cover. But Spain (like much of Europe) also employs low-cost, mainly above-ground regional trains that connect their suburbs with the Barcelona city center. Georgia could make use of existing railways for regional trains that are separate from, but connect with MARTA, just as GRTA and Xpress buses operate. Decades ago, a commuter train connected Duluth, Norcross, Doraville, and Atlanta. If regional trains could trim freeway traffic just a bit, Atlanta would have more room to grow. One thing Atlanta does better than Madrid and Barcelona is flight. Madrid’s airport has terribly long lines and requires walking seemingly the length of Iberia to traverse concourses. Barcelona’s is beautiful, but sequesters an entire concourse (ours, E) from the main shopping and eating area and also has a ridiculous screening process right before boarding flights. Hartsfield-Jackson has its flaws as the world’s busiest airport, but it flushes through the droves fairly efficiently. No city does commuting perfectly, but Madrid and Barcelona teach plenty about city planning. Closeness of goods (and people), the lack of cars, and the ease of mass transit may just make someone want to delay their trip to those cities’ inefficient airports. Metro Atlanta should take note, as more cities establish themselves, but also should pat itself on the back for its typically smooth aviation hub. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne 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
  • Finding the path of least resistance on your commute is becoming more and more difficult, as Atlanta’s population continues to rise and sprawl. Mix in unpredictable weather, increased distracted driving, the larger number of tractor trailers coming through town - oh yeah, and a bridge collapse. All of these annoyances ratchet up the trip times, intensity, and length of each rush hour. Having observed this, WSB’s Traffic Team went to work in late 2015 to make our extensive reports even more available and helpful. That answer finally comes later this summer in the form of the WSB Triple Team Traffic App. We see the numbers and anecdotally notice that traffic apps are the number one aid commuters, especially younger ones, use on their routes. This makes sense, as the most popular of these can tell drivers exactly the distance and time of their trips and the apps can adapt to changing traffic conditions and send the drivers another way entirely. But as commuters become more dependent on the app saying what to do, they become less in charge or knowledgeable of their route. Another fault of traffic apps is their lack of detailed info on traffic incidents themselves. Sure, there may be a crash a mile ahead that is causing a five minute delay. But what lanes is it blocking? How bad is it? Is it minor enough to just sit through the delay and not mess with an alternate? Current apps do not have this intel, because they are automatic and crowdsourced - their info is not from experts flying above these wrecks or watching them and helping you make that judgment. The WSB Triple Team Traffic App’s number one feature is audio alerts about each significant traffic problem that we actually record ourselves either from the helicopter or in the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center. But get this - these alerts fire off automatically, hands-free, and in enough time to make a decision to react or not. For example, if a crash on I-85/southbound at Shallowford Road was blocking three right lanes, you might hear Mark Arum (the lovable former scribe of this column, whom you know from Channel 2 Action News and WSB Radio) tell you about it back before I-285. This alert would play in enough time for you to decide whether or not to take I-285. And based on what you hear Arum saying in the alert, combined with the real-time traffic you’re hearing on News 95.5/AM750 WSB in the car, you can get the sense of how truly bad the wreck is. Other apps do not do this. The Triple Team Traffic App will be integral in planning your ride before you leave as well. You can search by address for your destination and then measure your trip time there. The Metro Atlanta map view will show all traffic incidents where you can hear or read the traffic reports on demand when you press the incident location pins. The map will also have the red and yellow flow data to show the backups. Checking your route with this new, innovative app and watching Arum’s Channel 2 traffic reports before you leave home in the morning will properly arm you for the battle ahead. The traffic apps popular now are just fine and we encourage their use safely, especially when you need turn-by-turn directions. But you trust WSB Radio and TV the most when there are major traffic problems on your familiar commute and we want to tell you about them even sooner. So please keep planning your ride with our radio and TV reports, but add the WSB Triple Team Traffic App later this month as another important layer in your route defense. Driving with it essentially puts us in the passenger seat of your car. Take charge of your ride again! Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne 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

News

  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner sidestepped comment on a political cartoon critics have called racist, saying Tuesday he doesn't have anything to add to the discussion 'as a white male.' The first-term Republican has previously said he hadn't seen the image, which depicts a black Chicago schoolchild begging for money from a suit-clad white man who has cash stuffed in one pocket. The cartoon was circulated online last week by the Chicago-based Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank Rauner has links to. However, lawmakers widely criticized the image, with Republicans and Democrats standing up in opposition on the Illinois House floor last week. The image, meant to illustrate inequity in school funding, was removed hours later. Rauner's spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said Tuesday that the governor has respect for lawmakers who have concerns, but he's also heard from black residents 'who found truth in the imagery and do not find the cartoon offensive.' 'The cartoon was removed days ago. And the governor — as a white male — does not have anything more to add to the discussion,' Patrick said in a statement first sent to Chicago's WMAQ-TV. 'The fixation on this cartoon and the governor's opinion of it has been disappointing.' Reaction to Rauner's statement was swift, with some saying it raised more questions. 'It is both a display of cowardice and a stunning abdication of moral leadership by the governor,' said Rep. Christian Mitchell, a black Chicago Democrat. 'Is he saying his being a white male is more important than his role as governor? Is he saying he will no longer comment on issues because he's a white male?' Critics said the cartoon was reminiscent of racist stereotypes found in imagery of past decades, with many calling it insensitive in the wake of the deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. Patrick said Rauner 'would never try to talk anyone out of their reaction to any piece of art, political or nonpolitical, right or left, good or bad.' Rauner, a wealthy businessman, donated to the Illinois Policy Institute before he became governor. In recent weeks, he's also hired top aides who worked there, including the former president as his chief of staff. Rauner is running for re-election next year. ___ Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen. Sign up for the AP's weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas at http://apne.ws/2u1RMfv.
  • Visitors to the University of Southern California might well be muttering, 'What fools these mortals be' as they stroll past a statue of the legendary queen of Troy and notice William Shakespeare's name seemingly misspelled at its base. To USC officials, it's much ado about nothing. 'To E, or not to E, that is the question,' the school responded in a statement Tuesday when asked why Shakespeare's name is missing the last letter E in a quotation attributed to him. The school noted Shakespeare has been spelled nearly two dozen different ways over the years. Officials say they settled on Shakespear, a spelling popular in the 18th century, because of the 'ancient feel' sculptor Christopher Slatoff brought to his larger-than-life bronze work of Queen Hecuba. The bard himself was known to switch up the spelling of his last name during his lifetime, although he did spell it Shakespeare on the last page of his will, filed shortly before his death in 1616. He referenced Hecuba in several of his works, most prominently in 'Hamlet,' in which Hamlet asks how the legendary queen of Troy grieved over the death of her husband, King Priam. Her statue was unveiled to great fanfare at Thursday's opening of the school's new USC Village. The $700 million project brings new restaurants, retail stores and other amenities to both students and the general public, as well as 2,500 new units of student housing. It represents the largest expansion in USC's history. Hecuba was commissioned as a female counterpart to Tommy Trojan, the popular life-size bronze of a Trojan warrior that stands in the center of campus. Unveiled in 1930, Tommy Trojan has become a mascot of sorts to a school whose sports teams are the Trojans. 'This is our commitment to all of the women of the Trojan family,' USC President C. L. Max Nikias said at Hecuba's unveiling.
  • Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams, 48, following public outcry to do so. Williams was previously granted a stay of execution in 2015 only to have it denied again earlier in August despite DNA evidence exonerating him of the 1998 stabbing death of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle, 42. >> Read more trending news Greitens announced the decision only hours before Williams was scheduled to die via lethal injection on Tuesday at 6 p.m. “A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case,” Greitens announced in a statement. The statement also announced that Greitens will choose the five members of the board. Prior to the decision, many on the internet spent part of Monday and much of Tuesday spreading awareness of Williams’ story using #MarcellusWilliams.
  • A former lottery computer programmer who admitted to rigging computers to enable him to pick winning numbers and cheat four states out of $2.2 million in several lottery games over six years was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison in Iowa on Tuesday. 'I regret my actions and I'm sorry for the people I hurt,' said Eddie Tipton, 54, the former information technology manager for the Multi-State Lottery Association, a central Iowa organization that provides number-picking computers for lotteries in 33 states the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tipton's voice quivered when asked by Judge Brad McCall to speak during the sentencing hearing. After McCall issued the sentence, Tipton was handcuffed and taken away by sheriff's deputies. Under Iowa law, Tipton is likely to serve far less than 25 years — probably between three and five years, said Iowa Assistant Attorney General Rob Sand, who prosecuted the case. The Iowa Board of Parole will ultimately determine how long he's behind bars. 'I think when you're an insider who abuses your position of trust and privilege you should expect to see the inside of a jail cell,' Sand said. Tipton's attorney asked McCall to give Tipton probation in Iowa, arguing his client was unfairly being treated far more harshly than other people involved in the scheme. As part of his plea deal, Tipton also admitted to committing theft by fraud and a computer crime in Wisconsin, where he'll be sentenced Sept. 18. The agreement allows him to serve his Wisconsin sentence — likely to be three to four years — at the same time he serves the Iowa prison sentence. Tipton also agreed to repay the $2.2 million to the four states from which he rigged games and jackpots were paid, but he told McCall it's unclear how he will get the money. He said he hopes to study ministry and get a job in that field after prison. 'Hopefully you're going to get rid of that greed and gain a little common sense during your prison stay,' McCall said. Tipton helped write the computer code behind several U.S. lottery games, including some of its biggest including Powerball, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto. He worked for the lottery association from 2003 until 2015 and was its computer information security director for his last two years there. Tipton admitted in June to installing code that prompted the computers to produce predictable numbers only on certain days. Tipton said he gave the numbers to his brother, Tommy Tipton, and longtime friend Robert Rhodes and others to play and often split the winnings with them. Tommy Tipton is serving a 75-day jail sentence in Texas after pleading guilty to a theft charge. Rhodes is expected to get probation when he's sentenced on Aug. 25 for a computer crime charge. The games Eddie Tipton fixed included Colorado Lotto in November 2005, Megabucks in Wisconsin in December 2007, 2by2 in Kansas and Hot Lotto in Iowa in December 2010, and Hot Lotto in Oklahoma in November 2011. Iowa Lottery officials became suspicious and never paid the jackpot when Tipton and Rhodes tried to cash a $14 million Iowa Hot Lotto ticket bought in 2010. 'Eddie Tipton had the keys to the kingdom and those are the things we changed immediately to make sure any equipment he touched was removed and we continue to look ahead and make sure we have those checks and balances as we proceed,' Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich said. ___ Follow David Pitt on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davepitt ___ Sign up for the AP's weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: http://apne.ws/2u1RMfv
  • Two Georgia police officers were arrested Tuesday on charges related to child abuse. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 47-year-old Tracy Jones and 36-year-old Rosemary Jones were arrested in Sylvester and booked into the Worth County Jail. The GBI says it was asked to investigate allegations of the couple mistreating their adopted children. Tracey Jones, an officer with the Jacksonville Police Department, was charged with two felony counts of cruelty to children in the first degree. Rosemary Jones, an officer with the Poulan Police Department, was charged with two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of false imprisonment.
  • Peachtree City Little Leaguer Jayce Blalock, whose grand slam during a game made headlines earlier this month, is back at it again – this time at SunTrust Park. Video of the 13-year-old’s 375-foot shot into the trees during a game against a South Carolina team was viewed more than 1 million times. The Atlanta Braves tweeted videos Tuesday of Blalock hitting another 375-foot shot at SunTrust Park.  You've seen Peachtree City Little Leaguer Jayce Blalock hit a 375 foot shot in the trees. Now, he's conquered @SunTrustPark! pic.twitter.com/uTPjlu0oT6 — Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 22, 2017 Upon further review, 13-year-old Jayce Blalock went mammo! Yes, 13. pic.twitter.com/oOPJfbnVLp — Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 22, 2017 Here's Blalock's grand slam from earlier this month:  'They said he could hit it into the trees ...' You were saying? #LLWS pic.twitter.com/QcWJnimLnV — Little League (@LittleLeague) August 6, 2017