I was almost killed last week. My Honda Element was sideswiped by a tractor-trailer on Lexington Road near Walmart. A few more inches could have made the accident more serious; fortunately, no one was injured.
However, there's been a significant increase in the number of tractor-trailers driving all over Athens—surface streets as well as the Loop. These trucks are wide! They even have warnings on the rear of them warning drivers that they make "wide turns." They might as well say, "We're going to hog the entire intersection while we make a turn, so don't even try to go around us."
Take a look at these trucks while you're behind one or facing one coming toward you in traffic. They pretty much take up the entire lane, while most other vehicles, even commercial ones, take up about three-fifths of a typical traffic lane. Many of these roads have no or very soft shoulders, so the possibility of getting run off the road is higher than before. These lanes were not designed for tractor-trailer-sized vehicles. Check out the entry lanes for getting onto the Loop—one or two tractor-trailers take up the entire ramp, and they move so slowly that it's usually impossible for the vehicles behind them to have any chance of getting onto the ramp before the the traffic light changes. I've had to add about 10 minutes to every commute I drive into or across Athens, wasting my time and gas. Plus, my previously mild attitude has been amped up to "kind of pissed off,” or even, "I feel like doing something evil."
Take some time to notice just how many of these trucks are on the roads any given day, any time of day—my accident happened at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night—and you'll notice just how many there are.
Not only do these trucks create dangerous and annoying situations, but they also block traffic lights from the drivers behind them who can't see whether they can go or not once they reach the intersection. How annoying is it to see the big truck get through the light, only to see it turn red when it's your turn to proceed? They also block roadside signs—speed limits, upcoming street signs, exit numbers while on the Loop, signs for parks and other places. And they're just plain intimidating. The drivers know that they're bigger than you, so you're stuck having to follow their rules. When driving on interstates, which I've had a lot of experience doing, many tractor-trailers will drive at exactly the speed that will prevent them from getting a speeding ticket, which means if we want to pass them, we have to drive faster and risk being pulled over for speeding. They often will caravan, which means they travel in lines, drafting behind one another, making it difficult to get over to that lane (typically the right lane). In addition, one or two of them will also be in the left-hand lane, which puts a little ol' driver in a canyon-like situation where one can't really see anything except the trucks.
Of course, not all tractor-trailer drivers are evil cretins who only want to get to Point B ASAP, but there are enough of them to make driving in Athens more dangerous than in the past. I don't know what the solution is, but maybe limiting the hours when they can be on the surface roads to late evening and early morning? There's got to be something that can be done. Recently paved streets have nice, smooth surfaces, which will will be worn, cracked and potholed by these huge, heavy trucks. That's our taxes being wasted on road repairs that might have been caused by increased tractor-trailer traffic.
I'm glad to be alive after the crash, but someone else might not be as lucky. Athens has a lot of students, many of whom don't have much driving experience. This worries me, and I think it should worry you, too.