Metro-Atlanta is somewhat unique among the U.S.’s large areas of urban sprawl in that there are no geographical features which confine or restrict its growth. There are no rivers, oceans, lakes, or mountain ranges to box it in; even if only in one direction. Atlanta simply keeps growing in all directions, much like a gallon of milk inadvertently spilled on the kitchen floor.
Look out Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee! Florida is still relatively safe.
Anyway, back to the topic of traffic. Atlanta traffic isn’t the worst I’ve ever driven in, I still maintain that Boston holds that honor, but metro-Atlanta traffic has got to be in the “Bottom 10” of locales in which to enjoy a casual afternoon drive.
This evening on my way home from work, I witnessed a traffic phenomena which I had never observed before. I was cruising along one of our many major three-lane arteries during the early rush hour when I was halted by a traffic light which had just turned red.
No one stomped on their gas pedals to rush through the intersection in that anything goes five second period immediately after the light has turned red. That in itself was a remarkably rare event, but it’s not the phenomena to which I’m referring.
Sitting at the red light, I was the second car in line in the middle lane. When the lights turned green, none of the the cars in any of the three lanes began to progress through the intersection. It was as if time, and traffic along with it, had frozen.
I looked up to re-confirm that the lights were green. They were, but due to the fact that no car in any of the three lanes was moving, there was a moment of mental confusion reinforced by the fact that none of the drivers in any of the lines were sitting on their car’s horns in a “polite” attempt to stir the lead cars into belated action.
Finally, after a good eight to ten second delay, one lane began to move out followed quickly by the other two.
It was in that moment that insight flashed through my mind and I realized I had just observed, what may have been, the first ever case of “Text-Lock“; a gridlock-like condition which I will define as:
“The inability of traffic to flow freely due to the drivers of multiple immobile vehicles being simultaneously engrossed in the act of sending text messages on their cell phones.“
At least they weren’t attempting to do so while we were all in motion. I always try to find the good in every situation.