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    This may be a niche topic, but electric scooters were in the headlines last week in Atlanta. The Atlanta City Council passed new regulations on the scooters, adding both some structure and complication to this easy and unilateral mode of transport. » RELATED: Atlanta City Council lays down law on scooters Pending Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ signature on the ordinance, riders will now no longer be able to ride on sidewalks or go above 15 mph. They also have to limit per-scooter-ridership to one person and cannot use cellular devices while operating the scooters. Scooter companies like Bird, Lime, and JUMP will also have to pay at least $12,000 per year in permit fees to the city. No one should be surprised that the city wants a cut of this burgeoning industry. The most disruptive part of the new set of rules is the requirement for scooters to stay off of pedestrian sidewalks. They can still use bike lanes and multi-use paths like the BeltLine. But forcing riders without helmets to putter along the side of the road, right next to traffic, and without helmets seems like a recipe for injuries. Riders partially have themselves to thank for this. There have been quite a few complaints about inconsiderate scooter riders putting those on foot in danger by zooming close by or running into them. This sounds similar to skiers’ complaints about snowboarders doing just the same on the slopes (guilty). A speed disparity and a recklessness create the need for separate lanes. » RELATED: Uber joins e-scooter war in Atlanta This newest transportation fad sees riders in a layer between cyclists and walkers. They can go quite a bit faster than pedestrians, but not as fast as bicycles. So Atlanta has moved scooters to the few bicycle lanes the city has. But cyclists are more committed to their longer trips and can go faster than the flippant, on-off scooter riders. That coexistence just doesn’t seem smooth. Scooter-riders, this ordinance should be a wake up call about an aspect of this technology that you love. The most charming part about scooting is how disposable using one can be. But you need to start treating scooter-riding as you would driving a car. You need to be considerate of those around you (on the roads and sidewalks). And you need to be extra-alert, as your foot-shuffling will now be often in shared lanes with automobiles. The city ordinance didn’t address the problem of scooters being left in random places all over. If users continue to leave their small, rented rides haphazardly on sidewalks, rules on that are sure to follow. The new Atlanta electric scooter rules seem to mean well and should help keep pedestrians safer. But with scooters now closer to traffic and with riders not wearing helmets, there could be some major problems. Another transportation mode is well entrenched among us - heads-up.  » RELATED: Athens mulls law banning electric scooters as hundreds are impounded 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.
  • As pellets of information whiz by our eyes simultaneously and at breakneck speed, retaining even just the most important bits becomes difficult. The fact that most of this information resides within a few clicks or thumb flicks makes us less reliant on our ability to remember. The speed of the news cycle pushes stories in and out of sight so quickly that we forget which celebrities died or that such-and-such politician had the exact opposite stance just two months ago. This same cognitive sloppiness applies not just to citizens trying to follow traffic laws, but also sometimes to the agencies tasked with enforcing them. » RELATED: What Georgia law says you should do when a school bus stops Rules regarding school bus safety changed on both the user and the enforcement sides on July 1, 2018 in Georgia. House Bill 978 began allowing agencies to catch school-zone speeders with cameras on buses, a provision met with heavy resistance. The compromise that allowed this automated enforcement loosened the restrictions on when vehicles can pass stopped buses in the opposite direction. The revised law eliminates the requirement of a raised or divided median for oncoming vehicles to be able to pass stopped school buses that are loading or unloading. The compromise eases the “median restriction” to including a turn lane. In other words, a turn lane now counts as a dividing median for the purposes of oncoming vehicles being able to advance past a bus in loading mode. As we talked about in an August Gridlock Guy column on the issue, this new freedom is not one motorists should take lightly. Sure, buses only unload students on the same side of the road as bus stops. But drivers in all surrounding areas should use absolute caution. One small distraction could cause an error that puts our most precious citizens in danger. And any relaxation in bus-passing does not change the restriction on speeding. Remember how easy speeding is to enforce under this new law. » RELATED: Georgia’s top lawyer confirms fears about change to school bus law But enforcement is only as smooth as the enforcers. A friend who will go unnamed told me that they got an automated ticket for passing a stopped bus in the opposite direction — when they had a turn lane in between them. One of the new automated cameras caught her and the jurisdiction mailed her the ticket. She went to court to fight the ticket and actually used the aforementioned August Gridlock Guy column as proof that she did not break the law. The judge threw out the ticket. Another unnamed friend got a similar ticket and wasn’t so lucky and had to pay. So the police and courts need to get on the same page as the law. Motorists do also. A former WSB co-worker, Noelle Stettner, emailed the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center last month with the opposite problem. She said she observes motorists on Highway 9 in Roswell and Sandy Springs stopping when they do not have to. They either are not aware of their new freedom or they are afraid to pass someone else that has erroneously stopped. Stettner wasn’t just annoyed by the unnecessary stopping, but legitimately concerned that stopping in error could increase rear-end crashes. An increase of crashes in a sensitive zone near a bus is never a good thing. The biggest ambiguity in the new law about passing school buses is not in the language itself. The law allows for oncoming vehicles to pass stopped buses, as long as there is at least a turn lane separating the two sides of the road. Period. The ambiguity therein is in how well both motorists and law enforcement are aware of the rule. If you get a ticket in error, look up the bill (or, apparently, this column) and go to court and plead your case. And make sure you aren’t speeding, or the case is moot anyway.  » RELATED: Why a small change in Georgia law could create danger for students 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.
  • This is a scenario that often unfolds in the hours of gridlock that thousands happen upon in holiday travel. I-75 on the south side, for example, may have bumper-to-bumper traffic in either direction for 20 miles. There may not even be a cause for the jam, but traffic is sitting still. Suddenly, that Cracker Barrel sweet tea follows gravity’s nudge and lands at the end of the line. You’re miles away from the next exit and traffic still hasn’t moved. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: If you play the traffic blame game, play it right This may seem like an elementary problem that requires a simple solution. Most people would say to hold it or to pull over and go. But neither choice is that simple. First, waiting to relieve one’s self is only a true option if there is an end to the traffic jam in sight. But despite the niftiness of “ETA” features on GPS apps and devices, those fly out of the window when a freeway is completely shut down. Just last Wednesday, a tractor trailer fire and ensuing cleanup shut down almost all of I-75/southbound in Spalding County for hours. This hullabaloo in the middle of the post-Christmas exodus created more than two-hour delays. It also created bad enough northbound delays that a total stranger Facebooked me to tell me that people were in fact pulling over to use the woods. Even though I-75/northbound was open and technically southbound had one lane open, people had no idea when they would reach the next exit with bathrooms. And the further one gets from Metro Atlanta, the longer the distances are between exits. But before bonding with nature, there are a few things to consider. First, most states and cities have some form of public indecency laws. People have gotten popped with tickets and even felonies for public urination in the wrong places. So if nature calls with urgency, people should make an effort to get as far out of view as possible. The best bet is to try to get to the woods. But if this conundrum occurs in an area not near some natural partitions, antsy motorists must make some sort of effort to cover themselves. People often have a fellow passenger hold up a blanket or towel and use the car door as another barrier. Not taking this effort is not only inconsiderate to those also stuck in the mess, but it could subject the lazy urinator to a ticket. Remember that whole indecency thing? » RELATED: SEE: Man busts a move during traffic jam, entertaining drivers with his dance moves Several years ago, a listener called me in the WSB Traffic Center, while stuck in a horrible holiday backup on I-85 northeast of town. The poor woman was in tears, because she really had to pee and was more than a mile away from an exit and not moving. I felt awful for her and admittedly had never taken a call about this kind of predicament. She asked if she could drive for a mile on the shoulder up to the exit or try and call the police to escort her down the shoulder. She really had to go. I told her that she was far more suited to try and pull over and go in the woods. Driving in the emergency lanes is for true emergencies. Someone driving a woman in labor to the hospital is an emergency. Rescue units rushing to a crash scene is an emergency. Emptying 20 ounces of Starbucks from one’s bladder is not. And when one car drives in the emergency lane, it invites others to do so and blocks the lane from being used for true emergencies. Don’t do that. Truckers often use empty bottles, so they do not have to pull over on long trips. I advise against this also. For one, this really only works for men. That aside, truckers are above others in traffic, so no one can see them do their business. A motorist in a regular vehicle may not cover all of their privacy bases, if they try to relieve themselves in a bottle. And then people are prone to chucking these “pee bombs” out of the window and creating nasty litter. Imagine picking these up. Gross. This thought exercise here should at least remind us all to be prepared. Keep napkins and hand sanitizer in the car, along with some snacks and water, in case a traffic RED ALERT gets us helplessly stuck. And if nature calls for desperate measures, we should execute those maneuvers with as much modesty and consideration as possible. Yes, safely pull over and go. No, don’t throw bottles out of windows or drive on the shoulders to find an exit. Happy travels and Happy New Year.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Minimizing dog distractions behind the wheel 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.
  • This story has been updated. Rain always hurts the Atlanta commute, but you can make a difference on your drive and those around you. Take our advice. » RELATED: Flash flood warnings issued for NE Georgia counties Headlights on, flashers off: Most cars have automatic light-responsive lights, but this aid doesn’t do the job when rain falls in daylight. This means turning them on is incumbent on the driver. Georgia law leaves no daylight here - always operate them in any precipitation. Turning on the headlights in the rain is simply the safe, considerate thing to do. On the flipside, driving with the hazard lights or flashers on is not good protocol. Hazard lights are meant to alert drivers that you are in danger or that your car has a problem. If conditions are such that cars have to slow well below the speed limit and drive with their hazards on, the best move is to pull onto an exit or into a parking lot and wait out the storm. Georgia hasn’t outlawed driving with flashers in non-emergencies, but it isn’t safe. » RELATED: Why you should never use your hazard lights while driving Rain can add 30-50 percent more time to your trip: A general rule of thumb the WSB Traffic Team uses is that your normal, every day trip time is will get that much worse just because of rain. The worse the rain and the closer the the height of rush hour your commute is, the more the percentages increase. A 30 minute-trip with normal delays in rush hour becomes at least 45 mins in heavy rain. And crashes make the times even longer. Distractions and speed make it worse: In the rain, vehicles take longer to stop, there are more wrecks, flooding occurs, vehicles have less traction, sharp turns are harder to negotiate, other people drive poorly and delays are worse. All of these factors require more reaction time; distracted driving and speeding have an inverse relationship with reaction time. To quote Jim Morrison, “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.” » RELATED: Everything you need to know about a flash flood Stay away from standing water: You may have no choice in the matter, but try not to drive through water, unless you have an idea of how deep it is. During downpours, people stall their cars often in what they think is only a big puddle. In 2017, a large puddle turned into substantial flooding at end of the I-85/southbound ramp to the Buford-Spring Connector/Hwy. 13 - which is downward sloping. Vehicles nudged forward through both pools and we did not notice any getting stuck, but HERO units soon blocked the ramp. However, if that water was only a few inches deeper, it could have entered the engine compartments on the cars and caused real trouble. Also, if cars hit these large aqua plains at speed, they hydroplane. Try and dodge big puddles in flooding and if you cannot, either turn around or go slowly. Telecommute or take MARTA: Non-vehicular ways to work are not options for everyone, but the best way to avoid the terrors of stormy rush hours is to avoid the roads all together. MARTA stations are sheltered from the rain and the trains have hardly the delays the roads have. Sure, buses get stuck in traffic, but at least they help remove the stress of operating a vehicle in bad conditions. And choosing to strategically work from home during inclement weather eliminates commuting stress altogether. » RELATED: Want some extra cash? Here’s how you can make money during your Atlanta commute Prepare with the WSB Traffic Team: The last piece of advice is to know your commute before and while you go. Start your drive with the south’s biggest, most experienced traffic team 24/7 on News 95.5/AM750 WSB and the WSB Radio App. Watch Mark Arum’s reports on Channel 2 Action News every weekday morning. And get a full rundown of the wrecks around town on the WSBradio.com traffic page and @WSBTraffic on Twitter. » For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page. 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
  • I’ve had dogs on my mind quite a bit in the last month. After going more than a decade without a pup, I adopted a year-old stray: a Belgian Malinois mix named Stallz. Accessories Unlimited, a company that does commercial bathrooms, found Stallz and appropriately named him. I minted him with the full name Lord William Byron Stallworth Turnbull III. After a proper greeting, the first thing I did was load my new best bud into my SUV, having no clue how he would react. Fortunately, he was a great passenger on the 20-minute ride back from Stone Mountain to my condo in Chamblee. And Stallz has been a great navigator on our many trips in the last month-plus since. » RELATED: Trucker saves dogs thrown from vehicle on New York highway But every once in a while this high energy dog gets restless and will stand up on the center armrest to jump in the back or nuzzle his head in the cup holders right next to me. Or Stallz will struggle to keep his balance if I make a turn while he is shifting positions. The most distracting thing Stallz does is decide to stand up — and sometimes on the center armrest — while I am trying to check my blind spot. So all of this got me thinking about if there is a certain protocol or even a law about animal behavior in moving vehicles. I reached out to Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood for insight. “While we don’t have data on dogs in cars, it is safe to conclude that having a pet on the loose in the front seat can contribute to distraction,” Blackwood said. I think most would agree that we see dogs riding in front seats all the time and doing so without seat belts. No laws require restraining dogs in the car, but Blackwood said belting in pets is a good idea. “Many pet product manufacturers offer various safety devices for pets in cars. Dogs are also safe in traveling crates, particularly for longer trips.” This is especially good advice this time of year, as many take longer rides to visit family and friends in the holidays. Chewy.com offers an assortment of affordable pet restraint devices. For as cheap as $10 or $15, dog owners can buy small leashes that either tether to a fastened-in seat belt or that actually have tabs and can click into a seat belt receptacle. These may not keep a dog from stirring around and certainly wouldn’t stop them from barking. But dog seat belts limit the perimeter in which a pooch can mull. On the same Chewy.com search there are dog booster seats, which are padded boxes (without tops, of course), in which smaller dogs can sit. » RELATED: Ohio town to issue citations for distracted drivers holding animals while on road These devices help restrain dogs and minimize distractions, but they also keep the hounds safe. In the event of a sudden stop or collision, a loose pet can go flailing and flying and get more seriously hurt than a human. In bigger vehicles, Blackwood offers another option. “Another alternative is to place the pet in the back of an SUV and use the safety netting to keep them from being thrown forward in a crash or sudden stop.” With all the talk about the Hands-Free Georgia Act this year, many bemoaned the amended law’s scope. They argued that many other actions outside of talking on a phone are distracting. The most common one I got is, “What about eating a cheeseburger and driving?” For some reason, it always had to have cheese. Add a loose dog to that list of extracurricular driving distractions. But remember that there is another distracted driving law that covers anything that impedes drivers from operating their vehicles correctly. Police can apply that law if they determine an outside factor, like burger-eating, putting on makeup, and taming a hound, caused a crash or another traffic violation. You’re probably reading this right around Christmas Day, and a new dog might be on your child’s wish list. Take these concerns about distracted driving with dogs into consideration as you start chauffeuring this new member of the family. And if you got a cat, this piece isn’t for you. No one drives around cats and cats couldn’t care less anyway. Merry Christmas.  » RELATED: Driving dog crashes truck trying to get to container of bacon grease 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.
  • Tuesday was a bizarre episode in Atlanta traffic. As Atlantans braced themselves for potentially widespread black ice, many businesses, schools, and government offices delayed the starts of their days by two hours. This meant their days started at 9:30 or 10 a.m., instead of at 7:30 or 8. But morning rush hour still could have been a bear, as temperatures following three days of rain were expected to dip into the low 30s and freeze the remaining moisture on the ground. That didn’t happen. » RELATED: Black ice: What Georgia drivers need to know to stay safe Save for a few icy patches in the far northern suburbs and the mountains, ice was not a problem for the commute. The temperatures largely stayed above freezing and the roads began drying out as the morning progressed. Since the various entities had committed to delaying their openings, commuters that had to venture out earlier Tuesday morning got a real treat. “As one would expect, the “normal” rush period of 7-9 a.m. saw a significant reduction in traffic volume — to the tune of 40% in most areas, as drivers stayed home because of their delayed start,” GDOT assistant state engineer Mark Demidovich explained. “As a result, traffic congestion was almost nil during those hours. Normally congested freeways kept flowing at around 55 mph.” But as motorists breezed through the morning drive, chaos began breaking loose in the 8 a.m. hour. This unrest may have had nothing to do the change in traffic schedule, but increased speeds mean that vehicles hit harder. During this hour, a string of wrecks broke out against the normal rush hour direction, two of which involved tractor trailers and shut down I-20/westbound near Riverside Parkway (exit 46) in Cobb County. As those delays built while traffic was light elsewhere, the commute went to the hounds in the 9 a.m. hour. “However, after 9 a.m., as drivers began heading towards their 10 a.m. starts for work and school, the traffic volume sharply increased — right back to the levels we would normally see at 7 a.m,” Demidovich said. Where the traffic volume was 40% lighter than normal before 8 a.m., it was that much worse from 9-10. And the unusual delays continued past that 10 a.m. start time. “The rush hour began at 9 a.m. and lasted until almost noon,” Triple Team Traffic midday co-anchor Veronica Harrell explained. “The volume on the roads mixed in with daily construction made for a disastrous Tuesday.” Indeed. In addition to just the late push of rush hour traffic, some gnarly wrecks paralyzed the ride in several areas. Tractor trailer crashes shut down parts of I-75/northbound in Henry County both at Locust Grove (exit 212) and Hudson Bridge Road (exit 224) in the mid-morning. » RELATED: Tractor-trailer fire closes I-285 lanes for several hours  Then, simultaneously, a tractor trailer caught fire and, at one point, shut down I-285 in both directions near Hollowell Parkway (exit 12) and left southbound blocked for quite a while. Then a big rig crash took out two left lanes of I-285/northbound at Martin Luther King Junior Drive (exit 9). And not to be outdone, another wreck on the south side briefly shut down I-75/northbound at I-285 (exit 238). Then a tractor trailer tipped over and blocked the sharply curved I-285/eastbound ramp to I-75/southbound (exit 58) for a couple of hours. Like the others, both of these wrecks caused big-time delays. Something about a change in environment or conditions often causes a spike in wrecks. The changes in speeds during the 9 a.m. hour might have contributed to these nasty crashes all over town. Also, morning rush hour usually starts slow and rises to a gradual boil. But Tuesday’s ride was steady and then the volume just poured into the mix all at once. That sharp spike in traffic — the sudden backups — could have caught people by surprise and contributed to this rash of crashes. The WSB Traffic Team had no reports of crashes because of the ice, and the delayed start times drastically improved the traditional morning drive. Ironically, that change pushed the rush hour forward and certainly seemed to cause more trouble than the ice did. Georgians made the right move in taking extreme precautions, no doubt. But Harrell may have put it best. “The two-hour delay is great for sleeping in, but not good for Atlanta traffic.”  » RELATED: What is black ice and how does it form? 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.
  • Traffic problems sometimes happen in chronological clumps. There will be a string of days with multiple rollover wrecks or a drive time where multiple vehicles lose different kind of debris in the road. Three different livestock truck crashes took place in Metro Atlanta in a five-month period, as you may recall. But these repetitive occurrences are often coincidental and not caused by some underlying common denominator. But one breakout of wrecks recently could be different. » RELATED: 3 taken to hospital after 7-vehicle wreck on I-285 North in DeKalb I-285/eastbound and westbound between Flat Shoals Parkway (exit 48) and I-20 (exit 46) in DeKalb has seen several bad wrecks recently. They have been epic, with several multi-car, multi-tractor trailer, multi-injury melees that each have blocked several lanes and caused severe jams. Triple Team Traffic’s morning WSB Skycopter anchor, Smilin’ Mark McKay, saw the first in this pattern on “Getaway” Wednesday morning, November 21st. A huge wreck shut down I-285/westbound just before Flat Shoals. 'It was carnage in the way of vehicles and debris all over the place,” McKay explained on the latest WSB Traffic Podcast. 'The insight that we had - it started as a medical emergency and we just went over there to make sure that everything was clear.” It had cleared, but the distraction likely caused the bigger problem. “What I noticed, was a firetruck on the scene of the multi-vehicle crash was facing the wrong direction.' McKay, who saw this unfold from the WSB Skycopter, continued, 'Imagine what they heard behind them, when everything started screeching and crashing.' The interstate was shut down from 8 a.m. until at least 10 and caused massive delays on both I-285 and I-20 in the area. On the morning of Black Friday, just two days later, I flew over another crash at the exact same location. This one had about seven vehicles and shut down all but the right shoulder. Fortunately, volume was light, so the delays were far less. Then this past week saw two more big wrecks in the opposite direction. At about 2:45 p.m. Monday, a crash shut down all of I-285/eastbound east of Flat Shoals. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Hooking up with I-285 needs to get easier Jason Durden was over it first in Newschopper 2 and he saw two tractor trailers wedged against the left side wall and multiple vehicles crushed in front of a car carrier on the right side of the road. I flew in the WSB Skycopter up over the severe backups that ended up jamming I-75 both ways in Clayton County and the onlooker delays on I-285/westbound ended up jamming I-20 both ways in DeKalb. The road did not fully open for three hours. Then on Wednesday, I flew over another mix of cars and a tractor trailer I-285/eastbound, just a little bit ahead of the previous one. That blocked two right lanes for about two hours and jammed traffic before I-675. This got McKay and me thinking about what the cause for all this could be. This area has been a continuous work zone for a few years, as crews are rebuilding the Flat Shoals bridge. But the lane shifts on I-285 are gone and the interstate has been repaved. In fact, the area is even smoother now than a few months ago. I reached out to GDOT’s Natalie Dale for an explanation. She shared crash data from the last five years for that interchange and it showed that, year to date, there were 70 less crashes here than in 2017. This is probably due to this zone being much harder to drive a year ago when there was more construction. Commuters on social media agree that it is now easier to drive. Two truckers that drive here often tell me that the biggest problem is people driving too fast and too close around their big rigs. When cars weave quickly in and out of traffic, trucks cannot react evasively quickly and they can wreck or turn over. This stretch of I-285 often runs quicker than, say, the north side Perimeter. But many trucks use it, as there are many trucking depots on Moreland Avenue and Jonesboro Road and because trucks have to divert onto I-285 to connect with I-20, or vice-versa. Combine these factors and the recipe makes these big, chain reaction-wrecks more likely. Another factor these last two weeks could be the increase in drivers from out of town traveling through Metro Atlanta for the holidays. Unfamiliar drivers on I-285/westbound come around a sharp curve and immediately up to the Flat Shoals ramp. I-285/eastbound motorists may run up on sudden right lane delays ramping to I-20. This can cause sudden lane changes and trigger wrecks. And keep in mind that many truckers are from out of town. One local rig driver told me that the angle of the lanes almost pulls his wheel in one direction, so he has to work harder to keep his ride straight. The only change in conditions the last two weeks on I-285 near Flat Shoals has been the addition of out-of-town drivers. Maybe this string of melees is a coincidence, mixed with some unfamiliarity. The Thanksgiving crash count the past three years in the area was similar. Really, there is no clear causation for this preponderance of wrecks. Captain Herb Emory might have said that someone sprinkled some voodoo dust down there. Regardless, everyone should exercise some extra caution on I-285 in both directions near Flat Shoals in DeKalb and should always drive severe care around tractor trailers. And truck drivers should do the same.  » RELATED: Tire blowout caused crash, I-285 shutdown in Cobb County 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.
  • One of the most frustrating aspects of Atlanta traffic is how much I-285 affects so many other roads. Wrecks and construction on I-285 jam up intersecting interstates, but the bigger sin of I-285 is just trying to hook up with it. Pardon the entendre. » RELATED: Georgia DOT: We’re ready for winter weather An annoying aspect of everyday rush hour is the right-lane jam that occurs when certain freeway traffic lines up to ramp onto I-285. This has become even more of a problem as more freight traffic clogs Georgia’s roads with the deepening of the Port of Savannah. And most of those commercial rigs have to bypass downtown Atlanta — via Atlanta’s bypass, of course. Another thing making I-285 merging worse is just the sheer increase in population not just in the City of Atlanta, but in all of the satellite cities in the suburbs. There are many more jobs in an array of places all over metro Atlanta, meaning there are many more rush hour directions for traffic flow. For example, both I-75/southbound in Cobb and I-85/southbound in DeKalb are usually slow in PM drive, as they ramp to I-285. This is going against the normal outbound PM drive flow. And when the ramps aren’t slow, they take no time getting that way when problems happen near I-285 or on the Perimeter. But the delays pop up outside of rush hour and at random times. On Wednesday mid-morning — well before the roads really got into the bad Thanksgiving travel mode — the I-75/southbound right lanes were already slow below Delk Road down to I-285. It was just volume. In fact, more than half of the interstate volume seemed to be exiting onto the Perimeter. So that got me down a traffic wormhole. Why do interchanges have such little real estate dedicated to feeding onto other freeways? The traffic volume seems to demand more capacity. And I-285 interchanges seem to be the most lacking. Spaghetti Junction (the I-85/I-285 interchange in DeKalb) generally gets the most flack. One measure of its jam is the American Transportation Research Institute’s study of trucking bottlenecks. ATRI ranked Spaghetti Junction as causing the worst freight gridlock of any interchange in the nation in both 2017 and 2018. This increasing gridlock, of course, adds costs to the companies that operate the trucks and the buyers of those products. And the Spaghetti Junction ramps aren’t just slow during rush hour. As noted above, the non-rush hour directions get backed up and a small crash on a weekend or midday weekday can snarl one of those ramps easily. » RELATED: Cobb gives 7 free time extensions to GDOT I-75 at I-285 in Cobb, the Cobb Cloverleaf, was ninth in the 2017 ATRI study and up (or down) to fifth in 2018. It may have gotten worse because of the three-plus-year I-75 Peach Pass Lanes project. However, those new lanes do give some added capacity in that interchange and improve the overall traffic on I-75. But they only run in one direction, so if traffic queues up in the other way, it doesn’t have the benefit of the lanes. As part of GDOT and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s extensive 10-year traffic plan, rebuilds of both the I-20 at I-285 interchange in Fulton (17th-worst on ATRI’s 2018 list) and Spaghetti Junction are on the drawing board. The Spaghetti Junction rebuild really simply involves more ramps and an integration into future toll lanes that GDOT will build along I-285. They also want to make a HOT lane-only set of ramps to I-285, similar to what exists on the new toll system in Cobb and with the HOV system on I-75’s Brookwood merge with the Downtown Connector. The I-20 at I-285 rebuild in Fulton County is even more urgent. There is no “spaghetti” in that junction. It’s more like a couple of breadsticks and some Spaghetti O’s. That interchange has only one lane in any direction to make the transition. It is the worst in PM drive, when I-285 is stacked both ways trying to ramp onto I-20/westbound. A search of the GDOT projects site shows that widening is part of this interchange rebuild. That certainly will mean better-moving ramps and more lanes to push through the increasing traffic volume. But this may be years away. I-285 is either the most or second-most important metro Atlanta interstate and improving it is always a moving target. Funding for new projects comes from the same pie that has to repave it every few years — and cut the grass, and replace signs, and rehab bridges. The Transform I-285/GA-400 project is still in its early stages, but will be the first measure after the Peach Pass lanes in Cobb to make interacting with I-285 better. But there is no doubt that the future projects just detailed will also make a dent in this problem. But as things stand today, hooking up with I-285 needs to be much smoother and easier. » RELATED: GDOT releases Northwest toll lanes holiday schedule  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.
  • “The right of way is given, not taken.” My dad shared this saying with me some 25 years ago and I seem to remember him telling me this in the presence of my grandmother, who is an avid reader of this column. I found it so profound (or as profound as an eight-year-old can find something, anyway) that I presented it in my second grade show-and-tell session that week. My classmates found it less impressive. I’m sure someone with a new pack of Nickelodeon Gak stole the show. » RELATED: Is the 'Tollercoaster' Atlanta's next 'Spaghetti Junction'? Kurt, a regular Gridlock Guy reader, wrote me last week with a great list of suggestions for column topics and most had to do with the right of way rule on the Georgia roads. I am happy to oblige — and I welcome your suggestions any time, as well. Arguably the most often application of right of way is in merging from a smaller road to a bigger highway. Merging incorrectly can create danger for cars both with and without the right of way. Here is what the 2018 Georgia Driver’s Manual states: “When the roadway you are traveling on is merging into other traffic without stopping, adjust your speed and vehicle position to allow you to merge into the new lane safely.” As you may have known, the traffic on the faster highway has the right of way. But in the spirit of “the right of way is given,” this oncoming traffic has equal responsibility. “If traffic from another roadway is merging into the roadway you are traveling on, safely change lanes away from the merging traffic if possible. If it is not possible to change lanes away from the merging traffic, adjust your speed and vehicle position to safely allow the traffic to merge.” Right of way also very much comes into play at intersections. Very simply, traffic with a green light has the right of way. But the driver’s manual is very clear that proceeding under green is not an automatic right, without a previous application of common sense. “At intersections with traffic control lights, wait until the intersection is clear of traffic or approaching traffic before entering. Do not proceed ‘just because’ you have the green light.” Also remember that turning right on red is only okay after coming to a complete stop and oncoming traffic leaves a safe gap. Do not impede or slow that oncoming traffic. Red lights always yield to green. The same holds true for flashing yellow left turn signals. Those beacons only permit that maneuver after the predominant, oncoming traffic allows it. » RELATED: Decatur beginning right-of-way acquisitions for long-planned project Four-way stops may be one of the most egalitarian times in traffic, so the driver’s manual spells out right of way in detail. “At a four-way intersection where all drivers are faced with stop signs, all drivers must yield to pedestrians; otherwise the vehicles should proceed through the intersection in a ‘first to arrive, first to proceed order.’ If two vehicles reach the intersection at approximately the same time, yield to any vehicles on your right.” And the manual urges absolute common sense. “If another driver tries to take your turn, even if you have the right-of-way, let the other driver proceed. It might prevent a traffic crash.” The right of way is given, not taken, yes. Pedestrians always have the right of way. If they have the “walk” signal in a crosswalk, they get to walk, even if vehicles have a green turn signal in that direction. This is obviously for safety reasons. And if they are jaywalking, drivers are still required to slow down and be safe around them. Cars almost always win the battle against people on foot, if they connect. We need to drive with that truth in mind. Illuminating one’s turn signal does show the intention to turn or change lanes, but it does not afford the right to do so. Drivers already in the right of way position must allow that to take place. The desire to do something does not create the right to it — imagine if society worked that way. We discussed roundabouts two columns ago, and the right of way in those is very simple: whatever traffic is already in the traffic circle has the right of way. This very similar to the rules of merging onto highways. The basic premise of the “right of way” is to settle traffic “tiebreakers” and make the roads safer. But the right of way is not an entitlement. Driving without entitlement might be the biggest salve to our overall traffic pain. If drivers practiced both yielding to and having the right of way correctly, the whole traffic ecosystem would flow much better. And we would feel better, too.  » RELATED: What to do at an intersection when the power goes out 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.
  • Transportation is a unity ticket of sorts. Candidates may have nuanced disagreements about how to tackle Georgia’s - and namely, Metro Atlanta’s - transportation and traffic issues, but their views are largely similar. This is why transportation, for as big as the problem is, isn’t a centerpiece in most campaigns. » RELATED: How Georgia counties voted in the 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial election Clay Tippins’ ill-fated gubernatorial campaign was one exception to this strategy, with his transportation-fueled attack on former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. The primary race didn’t work out well for either. AJC transportation reporter David Wickert did a great piece on where both Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams stand on transportation. At the time of the deadline, the governor’s race is technically undecided, though Kemp has an almost certain clear path to victory. But whoever takes the governor’s mansion will change the trajectory that outgoing Governor Nathan Deal has set. “In one-on-one conversations with Secretary Kemp, I think he is planning to continue existing GDOT plans for greater use of reversible lanes,” CSI Crane principal and WSB Radio political analyst Bill Crane said. “And though he sees the benefits of greater connectivity between Georgia's population centers, I'm not sure he is sold that we need more than 'good roads' to do that.” Wickert’s piece explained how some of the state’s long term plans received approval, but not very transparently, something both Kemp and Abrams said they would change. Kemp also wants to see more public-private partnerships on projects, particularly mass transit. Abrams, meanwhile, wants to set aside $150 million in government bonds for transit. “[To] ensure that the state remains a key investor in transit through our bonding capacity; general fund incentives where appropriate; and inclusion of transit as a permitted use of motor fuel taxes, without sacrificing our current efforts on roads, bridges and economic development projects,” Abrams told the AJC. Former state representative Geoff Duncan won the Lieutenant Governorship, succeeding Cagle, and Crane said this could impact transportation legislation going forward. “The Senate has a new L.G., who isn't Lieutenant Governor Cagle on these issues. That may as a result be new committee chairs, though I know Senator Brandon Beach would prefer to remain in his position, he was among the most visible Cagle supporters.” Crane said the Lieutenant Governor chooses the committee chairs in the state Senate and Cagle was very much a proponent of expanding transportation funding. » RELATED: Strong support for transit across metro Atlanta, survey shows With Republicans maintaining state House control, not much should change. “House leadership will be changing less, and it may sound odd, but we may end up with House Speaker David Ralston as the most visible spokesperson for further state investment in transit and transportation in the near term,” Crane said. Outgoing Representative Meagan Hanson, R-Brookhaven, centered her campaign on transportation, in hopes of winning some purple votes. Her TV ads focused almost solely on mass transit expansion. But despite that popular stance, she lost her seat to Democrat Matthew Wilson. This election is (mostly) in the books, but another special one on the horizon may do much more to shape the Atlanta transportation landscape. “The Gwinnett MARTA referendum in March rises significantly in importance. There are clearly some watershed changes in demographics and voting patterns underway there. But very little has been done to promote the referendum or benefits of expanding connectivity/transit into Gwinnett,” Crane explained. “We are now just under 120 days from that special election. My concern, as an advocate of transit options, connectivity and being competitive with the other great cities of the world, is that ifthe referendum fails in Gwinnett, MARTA may become landlocked in its current footprint for another decade or so. We are already behind the eight ball in terms of system size, expansion, etc...on that front.” In a few short paragraphs, Crane encapsulates very well how subtle changes after elections can sway Atlanta and Georgia’s traffic trajectory. Big questions on mass transit expansion, for example, get answered as low as the county commission level, where those leaders decide what happens in their areas. County commissioners are also stakeholders in the Atlanta Regional Commission, which works cooperatively to plan Atlanta’s traffic plan for decades down the road. Most people agree that Atlanta’s traffic absolutely must improve. But the path to get there may take some different turns in the coming months. » RELATED: MARTA's final Atlanta expansion plan: A detailed look 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.

News

  • A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. 'Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that's gone on this long, and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point,' Bottoms said. The mayor and others at a Tuesday news conference said two years of planning have them well-prepared to protect the public. 'Our goal is for our officers to be visible, for the public to feel safe, be safe, and be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with,' Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said. 'I think that with anything you can go in with a spirit of confidence if you have prepared, and we have prepared well.' But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. 'Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,' Bottoms said. 'We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.' The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport before departing, airport statistics show. On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing from Atlanta's airport one day after the Super Bowl. The partial government shutdown has meant missed paychecks for Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports nationwide. TSA workers have been calling in sick at a rate that's been twice what it normally is, the agency has said. That's led to a shortage of screeners at some airports across the country. No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday. The TSA had a national absence rate of nearly 7 percent Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on a comparable day a year ago, the agency reported Tuesday after getting complete numbers on the absences. A chaotic scene unfolded at Atlanta's airport on Monday, the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time. Mondays are typically busy for the airport as Atlanta business travelers depart for the work week, and some security lanes went unstaffed as lines backed up. Atlanta passengers led the nation Monday in terms of longest screening delays: The 'maximum standard wait time' was 88 minutes, the TSA reported. Passengers who went through TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program which is typically faster than regular lines — waited 55 minutes, statistics showed.
  • After a dramatic ending to a sentencing hearing on Monday, Channel 2 Action News has learned former Mayor Kasim Reed’s top aide, Katrina Taylor Parks, made nearly a dozen recordings related to the bribery probe at Atlanta City Hall. As a judge read the sentence against Park on Monday, she passed out and was taken out of court on a stretcher.  In August, Parks pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a city vendor in exchange for city work.  In court, prosecutors reveled parks took $15,000 in cash and gifts over an 18-month period starting in 2013 and lied to FBI about it at least twice. Why experts say those recordings were not enough to keep her out of prison, on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a local church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted. [READ MORE: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history] Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday seeking aide. [READ MORE: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth] “When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. Channel 2's Tom Jones has the full interview with Pastor Bryant on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Police: Officer attacked with own Taser after dangerous suspect resists arrest Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines