Few things can ruin your day faster than meeting a complete stranger for a two-car insurance seminar. With all of my experience behind the wheel, and as a current 30-mile commuter, I would like to offer tips on how best to avoid death on Atlanta's asphalt.
My driving experience contains several achievement milestones: Two accidents with questionable fault assigned to certain parties who shall remain nameless, two cars owned (almost, anyway), plus 50,000 miles on the new car and a shiny new back bumper courtesy of Allstate and that lady in the tiny BMW, with 4 separate state lines crossed behind the wheel. I understand some small things; concepts of physics like momentum and inertia, concepts of the chemistry involving the fluids in an engine, concepts of mechanical engineering as I diagnose that funny vibration when it idles. While going 45 miles per hour. At the age of 24. What a prodigy. Ahem.
First, speed limits are irrelevant in the metro-Atlanta area. This area includes the entire top half of the state of Georgia. There are signs that tell you the maximum speed acceptable by law enforcement. However, there are inevitably several groups of people that will prevent you from going that maximum speed. Which brings me to my second tip...
... Pick a speed and stick to it. Nobody in Atlanta drives with a consistent speed down any given road, especially the highway. There are mainly three groups of people in Atlanta: the ridiculously slow person, the local native NASCAR driver, or the foreigner. These people all know that there is a sign with a number on it, and that the little needle in their bottom-peripheral-vision shouldn't go above that number. And they all ignore that sad little sign as they wreak havoc on the community.
Tip three: If you are going to go under the speed limit on a surface street, make some kind of effort to acknowledge the speed limit once in a while. Seriously, most people don't mind you ambling along like you have a van full of infants, provided you are actually driving the Grand Tankavan and the soccer team's limbs are hanging out of every window. However, 25mph in a 45-zone on a main-road four-mile stretch is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. If you can't go 40 in a 45-zone, you don't need to have responsibility for that many kids. This applies to seniors as well; if you are unable to maintain 5 under the speed limit, you might deserve to get your license put to rest. Permanently. Or your medication turned down. Or something else old people do.
Locals, please listen to me for this next tip. I grew up and started driving in Snellville. I could drive to Hartsfield's north terminal in my sleep, and I'm pretty sure I sleepwalked to Five Points once. However, this DOES NOT give me... er, US the royal title of "Mr. 90-in-a-55." Don't be a pushy, self-righteous idiot who feels the need to sit 6 inches from someone's rear bumper. Sometimes, people like us deserve the wrecks we get in... and nobody wants to think about that happening to them. There's your tip number four.
Finally, a tip for the foreigners. Yeah, you. You North Carolina license plate. You Michigander staring at the one-way West Peachtree St. and a map and wondering where you are. You Cobb County types tapping away at your GPS for directions home from the Mall of Georgia. If I could offer you any sort of advice about driving in Atlanta, it is this one solid fact: As Georgia drivers, we will, in fact, let you know the first time you turn right after ignoring a YIELD-to-left-turns sign. Please know that we love you when we show you our universal peace gestures. Bless your heart.