What’s the Matter With Atlanta’s Drivers?

Posted: April 3, 2013 in Cultural Observations, Random Observations
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I arrived in Georgia in 2003, and so let the record show that I waited a good long while, learning the habits and practices of the natives, before speaking up and writing this article in May of 2007. The problem is, it was more than 2,000 words when I first published it – I didn’t know then how important brevity is in online work! So I’m presenting it here in a few different parts, to make it an easier read.

Part 1

Woodstock, GA May 9, 2007: Look, I know the technical term for someone like me is “damn Yankee.” I’m a transplant from New Jersey, been here for just over three years. But like most Georgians, I have a vested interest in staying alive. But it seems as if every time I turn my key in the ignition, I’m taking my life in my hands!

So what IS the matter with Atlanta drivers? And are these problems unique to the Atlanta metropolitan area, or are they universal? I’ll tell you what – if they drove like this where I came from, there’d be a lot more fatalities. See, I come from the New York City metropolitan area, where there are three times as many people, probably something like two to three times as many cars, and perhaps half the roadway (measured in “lane miles”). There are always accidents up north, but they usually involve injuries. Here in the Atlanta area there seems to be at least one fatality per week.

Where should I start? How about at the beginning?

Okay, getting into the car. Seems as good a place as any to start, huh? Now, I don’t hang out in people’s driveways or garages, and so I can’t testify as to how they get into their cars there, but I do see their behavior in parking lots. And I see how they get into their cars. And let me tell you, it’s scary.

If you know me, you know that of the places on earth you’re likely to find human activity, I think parking lots are among the most dangerous, and airport and mall parking lots are the most dangerous of these. Imagine – acres and acres of pavement, with vehicles of all sorts driving all over the place, looking either for a place to park or a way out of the lot. Add to this confusing mix a constant stream of pedestrians trying to remember where they parked their cars. Sounds like a place where you’d want everyone on their toes, right? So why is it that the pedestrians, upon stepping into the parking lot, immediately start looking not for their car, but for their cellphones? And those who haven’t actually dialed and gotten engaged in a conversation by the time they find their car will stop at the point of actually getting into their car, whip out their cellphone and start dialing before opening the door to get in.

Now they magically transform from pedestrians to drivers. We all know that in a mall parking lot, the road markings and signs (the ones that say things like “Left turn only” and “STOP”) are there for guidance at best. Most drivers think they’re there as landmarks (“How do I get out of the parking lot?” “Okay, run down this lane until you get to that funny-lookin’ red sign there and turn left . . .”).

Given this deadly mix, I honestly don’t know why there aren’t more fatalities in parking lots, especially mall lots.

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