The downtown connector is seven, sometimes eight lanes of highway passing through the heart of Atlanta on which Interstates 75 and 85 are merged for 7 ½ miles. It is listed in the top 10 most congestive highways in the US and carries over quarter of a million vehicles through the city each day. Obviously, traversing 7 lanes of traffic in rush hour is not for the faint of heart. Here is what I’ve learned.
Morning rush begins around 6:00 am and tails off around 10:00 am. It should be noted that drivers on the connector between 9:00 and 10:00 am are much less experienced than those in the 6:00 to 9:00 am rush, so the instinct to let your guard down because the traffic is lighter can often be a fatal one.
As much as I loathe people who do not use turn signals, rush hour on the connector is an exception. You cannot use turn signals on the connector during rush hour. If you do, you will be amazed at how quickly you will be cut off. It has been my experience that this is a universal law for young, black women. They seem especially competitive when it comes to merging vehicles.
The first step in changing lanes is to assess, predict, and analyze gaps. You do this by using quick glances, but only with your peripheral vision. Never turn your head. If you are seen turning your head, any potential gap will close immediately. You will also be tempted to let up on the gas while you are glancing, to avoid hitting the car in front of you. Do not let up on the gas. Any gap emerging in front of you is a sign that you are glancing, which means you want to change lanes, which means the gap you are analyzing will close immediately. It also increases the risk of allowing a lane diver (see lane diving below) to dive into the gap you are creating, forcing you to step on the brake. Brake lights in your lane will immediately force any gaps in the lanes beside you to close.
During your commute, you will encounter pace cars. Generally, these are inexperience commuters and in my experience, white males. They never exceed the speed limit and repeatedly maintain that stupid safe braking distance we all learned about in drivers ed. The whole idea of rush hour is to keep up with traffic. Whether traffic is moving at 45 mph or 95 mph, the rush hour rule is to keep up. Because they don’t follow this rule, they should be run off the road at high speed like a lion knocking down the trailing wildebeest. But let’s face it, we don’t have time; we have to get to work before the boss.
The solution is to avoid lanes that have pace cars in them. To do this, you have to look at least 10 car lengths ahead for unusual gaps. Avoid lanes with landscape trucks or vans with multiple ladders on the roof. Mexicans generally will not exceed the speed limit which makes them, pace cars.
Never pull in behind an electric car or a vehicle with more than 3 bumper stickers, especially the Coexist one. 90% of pace cars are driven by flaming liberals.
You will encounter lane divers during your commute on the connector. These are the true assholes of the world, the scum of the earth. If I was in a room with Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and a lane diver and I had a gun with only 2 bullets, I would shoot the lane diver twice.
These are the people who speed past long lines of cars waiting to enter or exit the connector. Sometimes they even have their turn signal on as they wiz by at 70 mph. As soon as they find a gap near the front, and it can be a gap of any length, they dive into that space. It does not matter to them if they have to block 2 lanes of traffic, just so long as they get their spot at the front of the line.
There is nothing you can do about them when it comes to cars ahead of you, but you should do your best to prevent them from assaulting you personally. The only way to identify them is by using the force. It is difficult to verbally describe a lane diver, but you will know them when you see them. About all I can say is they don’t look like the others in their lane, something will be off. The speed, the distance between cars, their placement within the lane; it will be off.
Some people think if they drive on the extreme right side of the lane, they will avoid lane divers. Nothing could be further from the truth. This gives them all the space they need to bully you into letting them in. You need to stay to the extreme left side of the lane and on the bumper of the car in front of you, no matter how anxious it makes the person in front of you. Never make eye contact with them either. If you make eye contact with a lane diver, they will try to sweet talk you into letting them in. “Oh, will you let me in please sir, I made a terrible mistake?” Bullshit. Do not make eye contact.
Afternoon rush begins at 2:30 pm and tails off around 1:00 am. None of these rules apply to afternoon rush hour on the downtown connector. Nothing moves in the afternoon. It is a parking lot and should be avoided completely.
Hope this helps. Good luck!