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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020
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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

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!"

Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard because people have a tendency to set goals that are either too lofty or too broad. Losing 25 pounds and getting a cheese-grater six-pack (make it eight, no, 10) are hard for most to achieve. But simply committing to living a healthier lifestyle might allow for too many progress-stifling mistakes. Since this is the “Gridlock Guy” column and not “Diet Dude,” let’s set a goal that all Atlanta motorists can achieve.

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: DUI death rates and the easy options to get home safely

Say this together: “I will not put people’s lives in danger just to avoid a delay.” Let me explain my focus on this heavy but simple goal.

On Monday, December 30, we brought the WSB Skycopter to a crash scene between Newnan and Palmetto. Early-morning emergency pothole repair had caused a backup on I-85/northbound near Highway 154 (Exit 51), and just as that had cleared, a vehicle flipped over in the tail end of the slow traffic. Crashes often happen when drivers hit delays unexpectedly and take seemingly evasive action.

As the scene began to clear, police, a wrecker, and a GDOT CHAMP unit began packing equipment and leaving. The CHAMP operator had a trail of cones diagonally set in the two left lanes, tapering up to the crash scene. As he walked back, by himself, stacking cone after cone, cars started whizzing right by him in the newly-opening lanes.

» RELATED: Remembering WSB’s Pete Combs and the I-85 plane landing

The two right lanes had been open for a long time, so drivers easily could have gotten over early, slowed just a little bit, and left a safe bubble for the CHAMP operator to finish the job. But selfishness, tunnel vision, and “Hey, they’re doing it, so it must be okay” groupthink put the CHAMP operator in danger.

Then, to add extreme insult to near-injury, one obviously extremely important sports-car driver passed the CHAMP unit on the left shoulder. That narrow patch between the CHAMP truck and the wall seemed the perfect outlet to squirt past for this motorist. Unreal.

Later that same day, 511 Georgia, the organization that dispatches HERO and CHAMP units and manages traffic incidents all over the state, tweeted a disturbing video.

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design

The clip shows a driver choosing to avoid delays in one direction of I-985 by driving on the shoulder in the opposite direction of travel. Yes, this hurried commuter figured that driving the wrong way on an interstate and putting their lives and those of others in serious peril was better than getting stuck in a traffic jam.

Neither of these extraordinary lapses in judgment made headlines. The only way these daredevils (emphasis on devils) likely end up on the front page and in the A-section is if they injure or kill someone. So please take something away from the Metro section here: These stunts just simply are not worth the risk. Neither keeping a schedule nor avoiding an inconvenience is worth life and limb.

Commute preparation is key. Tune-in to Channel 2 Action News in the mornings before you leave for work and school and 95.5 WSB any time of day. Know where the unusual jams are before you get to them.

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Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020

Keep the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App running in the background on your smartphone as you drive. With all of the information out there, there is little excuse to be surprised by a traffic jam, unless a crash happens only a few minutes before you arrive.

This whole “Driving and not risking others’ lives” New Year’s resolution is the diet equivalent of “I will not eat an entire cake every single day.” But this commuting goal is specific and attainable. We’re setting an almost subterranean low bar here, yet people sadly will still trip over it.

Just because the homesick blues have us in a tizzy to get to point B, they don’t license us to risk the lives of first responders or our fellow motorists to get there. Cheers to a safe 2020 for us all!

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 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@cmg.com

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News

  • On the eve of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the president’s legal team said Monday called the case “flimsy” and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution,” according to The Associated Press. The brief, which was filed Monday in anticipation of arguments expected this week in the Senate impeachment trial, dismisses the case as a “brazenly political act” by the House of Representatives, The New York Times reported. The legal team also claims in its brief that the “rigged process” should be rejected by the Senate, the newspaper reported. The brief further states that neither of the two articles of impeachment against Trump are valid because they do not state a violation of the law, the Times reported. The 110-page brief from the White House asserts the case was never about finding the truth, the AP reported. 'Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way — any way — to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election,” Trump’s legal team wrote, according to the AP. “All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.” Proceedings in the impeachment trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
  • You might know him as Khal Drogo. Others see him as Aquaman. Regardless, actor Jason Momoa brought plenty of smiles to patients and families at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Hospital officials said Momoa visited the facility while taking a break filming his Netflix feature in Pittsburgh, WPXI reported. The hospital posted photos on social media of the actor visiting patients at the facility. The Netflix movie, “Sweet Girl,” will begin filming in the fall. Momoa is producing it.
  • That was sew nice. A stray cat in Wisconsin lost her ears to an infection, but now she has some new ones after a woman crocheted her some new ones, WTMJ reported. The cat, named Lady in a Fur Coat, had to have her ear flaps removed according to the Dane County Humane Society. The feline was bought into the Humane Society in December and began treatment for chronic ear infections, spokeswoman Marissa DeGroot told CNN. The cat’s appearance was a little unsettling, so Ash Collins, who works at the Humane Society, decided to crochet Lady an ear bonnet, CNN reported. It took some gentle persuasion and treats, but the cat finally was fitted into her new purple ears. “It’s amazing because we see these strays and medical cases come in and I think we’re always surprised by their resiliency,” DeGroot told CNN. Less than 24 hours after the Humane Society posted the cat’s story on Facebook, Lady was adopted.
  • A New Hampshire man died Sunday night when his snowmobile fell through the ice on the largest lake in Maine, authorities said. Steven K. Allard, 56, of South Hampton, was returning from snowmobiling with his wife on Moosehead Lake when his vehicle broke through the ice on the west side of the lake, the Bangor Daily News reported. Allard’s snowmobile fell into the ice near the mouth of the Moose River, according to Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Allard was pulled from the lake at 10:15 p.m. but he was unresponsive, Latti told the Daily News. Allard was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Latti said. “Snowmobilers need to stay aware of their surroundings and understand that ice conditions can change quickly,” Sgt. Bill Chandler, of the Maine Warden Service, told the Daily News. “This section of the lake, where the Moose River flows into Moosehead Lake, always has poor ice, and that is why there are marked trails on the lake so that snowmobilers can avoid the bad ice in this area.”
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  • Police in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said a man broke into a home and forced a woman and a 1-month-old boy into a car at gunpoint, according to WTVD. The home invasion and kidnapping happened Monday at 1:12 a.m. Wani Thomas broke into a home on Tangerine Drive and forced Jasmine Livermore and the baby boy, Nathaniel Thomas, into a vehicle, police said. Authorities are currently searching for all three. Thomas is considered armed and dangerous and last seen wearing a brown jacket with blue jeans. Livermore, 20, was last seen wearing gray pants, a brown shirt and a camouflage jacket. Anyone with information should call Fayetteville police at (910) 676-2597 or Cumberland County Crimestoppers at (910) 483-8477.