Traffic tips from a cop who’s worked traffic

At some point, every officer has to work traffic.

Years ago they would shut the lights down at rush hour and the traffic cops would work the intersections. If it goes as planned, it’s not too difficult. You take the north and southbound lanes, plus the turn lane. Move the turn-lane traffic for 15 or 20 cars, and then the north and south until you make a dent or make everyone mad in the east and westbound lanes. Then, repeat on the east and westbound.

If the traffic is heavy, slide a few more cars in the turn lane at the end of the rotation.

The X-factor inevitably comes into play. Most of the time, it’s (I’m sorry but this is a fact) an older woman who stops and wants to know if she is headed in the right direction — then begins a long dissertation on where she’s going, why and her concern that the green-bean casserole might spill, which has nothing to do with the direction she’s going!

Next it’s the delivery driver who’s in the turn lane but wants to go straight so he points in the direction of where he wants to go while he backs up 25 cars whose drivers had the sense to know where to turn.

So, any cop who has any time on the pavement working traffic knows it ain’t going to happen like it should.

Working traffic is like herding cattle, with the exception that cattle are smarter. Cattle, even when they’re lost, will at least keep going. They don’t stop and squint with that confused face and then drop the car at a dead stop with no apparent concern for the army of cars slamming on the brakes behind them. Everyone gets lost but, first, Get out of the way!

The lunchtime and business let-out traffic cops keep everyone nice and irritated while they let out folks from the fast-food joints and business offices. I get a lot of mail on that and I do expect more! One reason is people have not evolved into being able to make a left turn in traffic. They sometimes wait until both lanes clear. Both lanes never clear! You gotta get out and get in that R-lane and hope for the best.

Better yet, plan your lunch around right turns. It’s not that hard. Give those lunchtime restaurants on the right some business. Drive down the street and then turn around and come back or, better yet, wait for the cop to let you out while you look at all the happy faces in their cars.

We work a ton of wrecks involving folks who can’t make the left turn. They drive into the lane and then wait to merge, all the while putting their fate in the hands of the person whom they have just angered by stopping in their lane! It’s not sensible.

Stop talking and pay attention to the road

Let me say something right here: Get off the phone!! It’s hard enough to drive in traffic without diverting your attention span (some of us don’t have much to spare) to some mindless conversation that had to be initiated while you’re waiting for a left turn or, God forbid, approaching a four-way stop.

I’ve said this before. Sit and watch a four-way stop sign and you’ll be amazed some folks can even find their way home.

To make things fair, women can handle the irritation of traffic better than men. Men in traffic have this inherited gene that brings out the alpha-male thing:

“That is my space and I’m not giving it up to you causing me an extra three seconds of my day and although I’m only going 25 feet to catch up with the car in front of me in traffic, well, you can have my space when you pry my cold dead hands off the steering wheel!”

Road rage was made for men. We bow up, flip the other driver off and do that one-arm beating on the chest thing that football players do. Sometimes, the more pitiful of the species will pull the gun out and show the other driver just how insecure he is.

(About a month ago, one did it but, unfortunately for him, the show-ee was a U.S. marshal who took it seriously enough to call the cops. The driver ended up in jail where he shared a cell with a bunch of guys beating on their chest with one hand like football players do. He didn’t do well on an even playing field.)

Get off the phone!! (It bears repeating.)

Look, Atlanta is made up of a lot of people who bought homes all the way north to Sandy Springs, Gainesville, fashionably cute Roswell, Dahlonega and Chattanooga thinking the “I” word, for “infrastructure,” was going to keep pace.

“It’s close to the interstate,” the agent said.

Turns out everyone had to go to work at the same time.

Atlanta traffic is horrible. It’s the product of greedy developers and twit-minded politicians who had to know this is a town where people get in their cars and ride.

Few folks, not enough to make a dent, take the train or the bus. But apparently that wasn’t a big deal then.

Remember the great “Outer Loop” that was going to ease traffic in Atlanta? Now it’s now and not then. So we’re stuck with it and this traffic isn’t going anywhere soon, figuratively and literally. Give your frustrations a rest.

Make more right turns than left. Don’t each lunch at noon. Go at 11:15 and you’ll see a world of difference.

If you’re burned out on drive-time radio and the10-song playlist or the talk-radio, get the satellite channels and tune in to the comedy channel or the Margaritaville channel (I am required to mention that per my pre-nup with Detective Sandy) and just relax.

Play a CD (but stay away from the heavy-metal music; it’s too aggressive and leads to one beating on their chest like the football players do).

If nothing else, count the plastic car bumpers along the wall on GA 400. Whatever!

And — especially — GET OFF THE PHONE!

32 comments Add your comment


May 26th, 2010
10:46 pm

HALLELUJAH BABY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


May 26th, 2010
11:02 pm

Get off the Phone….Seriously


May 26th, 2010
11:22 pm

From a previous post:
“She referred to him [the officer] as a “%^$*$^&,” which, of course, means: “Please take me to jail.”
I think it’s just superb that officers are bilingual.
To At&t – you would have this problem if you would just pay your bill.


May 27th, 2010
12:15 am

Thing I’ve blown up over.. planning to make a turn and people jump into the turn lane early before the turn opens up locking you out of the turn. After road raging and going nutz trying to loop back around as soon as possible (wasn’t pretty) I’ve made sure to give a long blinker notice when approaching any long turning lane before entering it near where the line is actually at. I’ve noticed that since I’ve made a habit of it, so have most others at that particular intersection.


May 27th, 2010
12:18 am

I can’t wait for next weeks article: entrapment tips from a cop who’s entrapped.

Road rage? How about these portly officers and their tailgating? Is it legal if you have the cheesy uniform on to drive like an asshat? Guess you’ve got to hurry to fill those quotas!

And by the way, can you guys please spare us and stop pretending that you have NO idea what the tickets you so love to dole out cost? You aren’t fooling anyone, we know what you are- government revenue generators. May as well keep damn cash drawers in the cruisers!

Let’s call it what it is!


May 27th, 2010
12:58 am

Back off the police “Booyah” they are underfunded and understaffed. Not to mention dt atlanta has thousands of homeless vagrants.

el kabong

May 27th, 2010
3:40 am

The only way the phone/texting carnage is going to stop is when there is mandatory technology installed in cars that will disable phones and texting devices. This is from someone who used to think it was possible to talk and drive well.

For that matter, how about car insurance that puts a voluntary camera in the car that videos the driver? That way proof can be demonstrated of what was going on at the time of the accident. I would agree to it if it would get me a discount as a non-phoning/texting/internet viewing driver. Drivers agree to disabling devices if they don’t pay their car loan. Kind of a marketplace solution.


May 27th, 2010
6:22 am

Right on! I manage large collision centers and we love the idiots you just mentioned. Get off the phone!!! Make a right turn out of the parking lot and then u-turn…if you have to make a left turn, get to the middle turn lane and then merge. We see the same people over and over in our facilities. You know drivers, it is truly a rare accident when it is 100% one persons fault. It is usually 90/10, 60/40, 75/25. A little defensive driving on ones part and you wouldn’t be the claimant in a wreck. Heres an easy way to start, when coming to a stop, initially leave plenty of room from the car in front of you, watch the rear view mirror until you see the one behind you has stopped and then ease up to the car in front of you. I have avoided being rear ended several times by seeing the car coming up was going to hit me by closing that gap or in two occasions simply moving onto the sidewalk or the adjacent lane….. it is simply COMMON SENSE!!!!!


May 27th, 2010
8:19 am

I’d like to hear more about Detective Sandy’s Pre-Nup – just for future reference.
By the way – love your blog!


May 27th, 2010
8:37 am

You have been at the “job” too long. It is getting to you !!! You are making excuses for still remaining on the job, though at times, it is probably fun. Lt’s pay at a relatively new department, pension from the old, and some kind of comp from the newspaper adds up to a good income.

But wait, Your President is going to make sure that you do not keep most of it after next year. So, hard work bro, this will help you stay in the know.

jenny smith

May 27th, 2010
12:39 pm

And you do what my co-worker does when people honk at him after cutting him off–> Wave and smile! Smiling perplexes them even further!


May 27th, 2010
12:48 pm

Get off the $#@%ing phone!

Two things that irk me to no end: First, when you need to merge into another lane of traffic, no one is willing to back off a bit to allow you clearance to do so. I’ve sat for a good 10 minutes several times waiting for someone to give me enough berth to merge. Second, @$$holes who think that they don’t have to use the blinker to merge into another lane. They assume that if you see them begin to swerve into your lane, you’ll slow down and let them in. Unfortunately this is how accidents happen because you idiots don’t give fellow drivers warning (ie turn on your damn blinkers!) that you plan to merge. Hang up the phone, and use your blinkers!

Van Jones

May 27th, 2010
2:33 pm

“Everyone gets lost but, first, Get out of the way!”

AMEN Brother! Words to live by… unfortunately so many don’t. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen people (or have done it myself) run up on someone practically stopped in the road because they want to turn… from the opposite lane.


May 27th, 2010
3:09 pm

Sandy Springs PD has a very safe approach to traffic safety for their officers- stay off the road, just sleep there in the Publix parking lot!

And the police aren’t understaffed- they are fully able to serve their purpose, i.e., collect money through traffic entrapment.

Protect and serve? More like entrap and solicit. At least the girls working the street like that for cash don’t pretend to be noble!

Way Prettier Than You are

May 27th, 2010
4:10 pm

I work in “DOWNTOWN” Sandy Springs and I have NEVER seen a cop sleeping in the Publix Parking lot. And my ex-husband would wave his Desert Eagle at people if they got too close to his vehicle….(That could be one of the reasons he is an EX) And It’s been a long time since I have seen a “PORTLY” police officer….All the ones I see are very much in shape. Hey, Is it okay to put on make-up and drive?


May 27th, 2010
4:36 pm

Why do my posts never show up? Who did I pisss off at the AJC?

Please don’t text and drive either. I don’t know why our state leadership can’t try some of that “new fangled thinking” and pass a law that protects all of it’s drivers. My proposal is this: if you are caught using a non hands free phone, you incur a $200 ticket. The same if you are blackberrying while driving. I curse at people every day who are leaving fifty feet between them and the next car because they are too busy texting to drive. I do not text or answer the phone in the car – EVER. Work can wait until you get home, and I am reasonably certain that anyone who dies while texting will be thinking about their stupidity in the afterlife.

Although the same cannot be said of our state leadership.


May 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

“Lawana Clinton was initially arrested by her police department on charges of forgery and violation of oath of office, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in Atlanta.”

Arresting cops for stealing money? Hardly seems right- these dunderheads are highly trained to steal cash ten hours a day! What a double standard…

Increase Traffic

May 27th, 2010
6:45 pm

HA… GREAT humor dude. However I have to disagree with regards to road rage, believe it or not I have seen QUITE A LOT of women who are far more aggressive while driving than men. I have gotten the finger, a “a” word, the jerk, you name it… And I mean really mean insults. LOL!!!

In addition I have to say that it is not just in Atlanta, in NYC every time the want to add a lane to a bridge to help traffic flow it will actually increase traffic, since more people will opt to drive their cars. Go figure. And my wife is from Boston where the biggest ever infrastructure mistake was made, the BIG DIG… It should be called the Big mess, in reality what was meant to alleviate congestions in reality increased traffic, went WAY over budget, has lots of gaps, faults and construction errors that it even claimed a woman’s life a few years ago.
Increase Traffic


May 28th, 2010
12:50 am

Booyah – you are SO HIGHLARIOUS !!! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!! If I’m ever dumb enough to land in jail, I’ll look ya UP brutha !!!!!


May 28th, 2010
7:34 am

I am one of those drivers who HATE letting people merge in front of me at the last second. You saw that the line was forming but you kept on driving and then want to cut me off to get in the correct lane. Especially on 285 east merging on to 400 north. You know where the turn lane is – get in it early!


May 28th, 2010
9:22 am

And by the way, can you guys please spare us and stop pretending that you have NO idea what the tickets you so love to dole out cost? You aren’t fooling anyone, we know what you are- government revenue generators

The only people who have issues with cops giving tickets are lawbreakers who keep doing stupid stuff to earn tickets. PERIOD. So we know what you are.

People who abide by the law have no problem with the police. We are glad they are here. Are some of them corrupt, lazy asshats? Yes. So are some of any segment of the population. And no, I’m not in LE, and have no family that is, so this isn’t coming from that. It’s just common sense, and a knowledge that the world doesn’t exist for me.

And I am GLAD that tickets are income generators! They should be issuing more. It’s a great, FAIR way for gov’t to get the money it needs. The lawbreakers pay for their own stupidity, the roads are safer, and those of us who abide by the law are not negatively affected. Please, speeders and traffic miscreants: keep it up!

It’s the perfect system. Grow up.

Old Geek

May 28th, 2010
9:54 am

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed an inverse relationship between driver courtesy and income level in the area?

Alexander G. Bell

May 29th, 2010
2:10 am

ATTENTION GEORGIA LEGISLATURE….Superior revenue generating idea right here… !

Create a $150 fine for driving a vehicle while using a hand-held cell phone. The State cut is $50, the associated police department gets $75 (and $25 goes to hiring more police to issue more tickets to these multi-tasking, dangerous nitwits) and the County get the remainder…plus court costs for the local court system. The second time around, the fine doubles (as does the proportionate shares for police, State,etc). The third time, the fine is 3x $150.
This offense should be a moving violation, meaning auto liability costs increase for these offenders of road safety and courtesy.


May 29th, 2010
8:27 am


You seem to be more frustrated and a chest beater than anybody described in the article. By the way, what is a “speed trap?” What kind of bait do they use? How do the cops get people to push the gas pedal farther down when approaching the cop, or keep their foot off the brake as they approach a stop sign? Or maybe, just maybe, you’re the kind of Moron that we’re all talking about. STUPID SHOULD BE PAINFUL! That’s why the tickets cost so much. We’ve given up hope that drivers like you will learn, so we just want you to pay for the mayhem that you cause others.

Here's another approach...

May 29th, 2010
9:17 am

Steve: Instead of having cops “work traffic” (instructing drivers to ignore the traffic signals), why not just allow the traffic signals to do their job and have the cops there only for the purpose of preventing clueless/aggressive/selfish drivers from blocking the intersections? (A driver who moves ahead on a yellow light and winds up blocking traffic would be immediately cited with a ticket and a hefty fine.) If the cops will force drivers to obey the red/green lights, traffic will flow smoothly.

Ted Striker

May 29th, 2010
9:46 am

Good read. If I ever get busted for anything, I want you to be the guy busting me, I’ll just feel better about it.


May 29th, 2010
11:06 am

This is all too familiar. I worked a job where I directed traffic for road construction, ga power, and accidents. THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS VERY STUPID. The countless # of people who just STOP, look around like they don’t know what’s going on is endless.

The biggest problem with Atlanta traffic is the lack of urgency. Nobody is in a hurry to go anywhere!!!! You see an occasional black man driving a dodge charger going extremely fast. Then you see usually a minority of some kind(black or mexican) driving beyond slow. Probably b/c they don’t have insurance. And then most white people have their head in their a** or on an IPhone.

Atlanta traffic is nothing. Go to Houston. You’ll find out how bad traffic can be.


May 30th, 2010
11:19 pm

Steve, Your column is great when you talk about the stupid crooks! It sucks all the other times! You’re not that interesting and you’re not going to get many people to change their phone habits. We want to be made to laugh and say “I’m glad I’m not that dumb.” Get back to the stupid crooks or AJC get someone else to write this blog.

BIG Lt. Rose Fan!

May 31st, 2010
12:04 am

Morrus honey, you’re on the wrong blog.
Remarkable, you are more appropriately “Unremarkable”. If you want to only see information about stupid criminals (which I also happen to love reading about), then go to that source (Sandy Springs paper or Neighborhood Watch newsletter) and get off this blog. And as far as not getting people to change their phone habits, guess you’d better let Oprah know about this crucial piece of insight as well.
(I wish more high school graduates knew about this blog, because it’s brilliant (see “Tom’s” comment) – Lt., don’t stop doing what you’re doing – PLEASE.


June 1st, 2010
11:17 am

@ HRPufnstuf – I’ll tell you what’s a speed trap.

On my way to Gainesville, there’s a stretch of road that’s a “speed trap.” After you crest a hill and are going downhill (at a pretty good clip), the posted speed is 45. Halfway down and it changes to 35 – FOR NO REASON. No school, other streets, anything. And guess what – MANY times I’ve seen a police car sitting right there, watching for speeders and ticketing.

THAT’S a speed trap.


June 1st, 2010
1:36 pm

And while we’re on the subject of bad driving:

I know this is not Dt. Rose’s jurisdiction but if anyone reads this who uses the South exit on 400 @ Mansell. Please, on behalf of everyone else who has to put up with this constant arrogance, stop riding down the ramp in the left hand turn lane and then making an illegal right, bypassing all those patient and law abiding folks who WAIT THEIR TURN! please don’t be a pole smoker!!!

I have called Alph before to report people making that illegal turn (someone WILL get hit one day). I see this happen every single day. I myself am such an ass that I have taken people’s license plates and made sure they’ve seen me doing it.


June 2nd, 2010
9:17 am

Here’s a novel idea: Make people really LEARN how to drive before throwing a driver’s license at them. How about, say, 20 mandatory driving lessons for everyone who wants a license and a final test on the streets of Atlanta. If you fail, start over. Driving is still a privilege, not a right. Insurance companies could help finance it.