Interstate Driving Pro Tips (or, What I Thought About Yesterday for 9 Hours)

December 21, 2016 — Leave a comment

Since 2003, I have regularly driven I-75 from east Tennessee to central Florida. I wish at this point I had kept an accurate count. I could probably crowd source that information, but as a guess, we’re looking at about 9 times between 2003-2007, and then from 2011 until now, at least twice a year (yesterday being the first half of one such trip). This of course isn’t counting times when I drove Dallas-Orlando-Knoxville-Dallas. So easily 20 times both ways, and maybe another half dozen one way or the other.

It is a 650 mile stretch of Interstate that I have mostly memorized in terms of exits and amenities. I’ve driven across Georgia early in the morning and late into the night. Occasionally, I’ve driven it through the middle of the night. My personal point to point record is 8.5 hrs, but on average we’re talking 10 plus whatever traffic in Atlanta adds to the time. I’ve done it in one stop once, but that was before I started drinking coffee (and you have to make at least one stop because you know, gas). Perhaps more remarkably, I have never been tagged for speeding (in Georgia at least).

As I was making this drive yesterday, I kept thinking of helpful tips and tricks I could share. The temptation was to tweet or put them on Facebook in the midst of driving. Instead, I’ve opted to collect them here for your reading enjoyment. Most of this applies to driving across Georgia, but you could use some of the principles for any all day road trip. I am somewhat serious, but mostly tongue-in-cheek. You’ll have to figure out the dividing line.

General driving tips

  • Plan stops ahead and stick to them. I aim for just inside Georgia at exit 5 going north, and then again in Kennesaw after beating Atlanta. Going south I try to make it to the Macon bypass.
  • Gas up on both stops and remember that gas in north Florida is considerably more expensive than most anywhere in Georgia.
  • Take the bypass around Macon. In all the times I’ve driven, I’ve always taken I-475. No need to see Macon unless you’re Nelson Muntz.
  • Turn Waze on, not for navigation, but for the audible notifications of “Police reported ahead” and “Hazard reported ahead.” Make sure it comes through your speakers so you don’t miss them.
  • Maintain awareness of your travelling companions. You should generally be aware of whether you can make a sudden lane change when you come upon that hazard that was reported ahead.
  • The drive time (if you’re not trying to break land speed records) is 9 hours. Whatever you stop adds to that. Aim for the middle of nowhere exits that have a lot on them. Easier in and out. It’s Georgia so there will either be a Zaxby’s or a Chick-fil-a almost anywhere you stop.
  • Check Google Maps frequently with the traffic layer turned on. Unless a wreck just happened or construction project just started, you’ll know where the backups are miles before you get there.
  • Unless a back-road runs mostly parallel to the Interstate, it is probably not faster to get off and try to get around traffic. But sometimes it is, and it is totally worth it. Also, scenic detours can be fun!
  • If you take videos or pictures while driving (not recommended, but I do it), make sure you do it blindly and hope for the best (see below). Eyes on the road, not on the screen.

On speeding (or not)

  • Go with the flow of traffic for the most part, especially through downtown Atlanta (speed limits don’t matter there). Your mantra is “neither impede nor exceed traffic.”
  • Along those lines, north Georgia and north Florida are essentially race tracks. South Georgia is a giant speed trap. Plan accordingly.
  • Constantly monitor your rear-view mirror. You should never be surprised if a state trooper breezes past you because you saw him already.
  • Know what state troopers and various county police look like throughout Georgia. Be able to recognize headlights in your rear-view if you drive in the early morning or late at night hours.
  • Observe the cars on an overpass as you approach and glance back at the on-ramp when you pass under. You’ll thank me when you spot the cop hiding there.
  • Remember that every blind curve and slight rise in the road provides a place for a state trooper to hide. Left off the gas as you crest hills. Don’t try to pass in the left lane if you’re approaching a bend in the road.
  • Generally avoid the left lane (but see below). Let other people appear to be the fastest car on the road. Also, drive a black nondescript sedan.
  • Realize that speeding tickets are incredibly expensive in Georgia if you are going over 70 (which is what you’ll be doing if you get one there), but you’re probably safe setting the cruise control on 75 through south Georgia and doing whatever the middle lane allows in the rest of the state (I still practice hyper vigilance out of habit).

On Atlanta

  • Drive straight through. Don’t use the bypass, same traffic, but more miles.
  • Leave early or late enough to avoid peak Atlanta traffic (7-9 am or 4-6 pm). I aim to drive through Atlanta between 10-12 (regardless of direction travelling).
  • Hug the left lane through downtown. HOV if you can (you need a buddy for that). It minimizes your potential to be caught in a lane changing fiasco.
  • If you’re going north though, you’ll need to be in the far right lanes to avoid accidentally ending up on I-85. I enjoy the challenge of having to change 5 lanes in heavy traffic in under a quarter mile. You do you.
  • Without fail, there will be an accident south of Atlanta in Macdonough. It’s worse if you’re going south, so plan accordingly.
  • If you’re doing it right, Atlanta is about the most excitement you’ll have on the whole drive, so savor it.

Certainly more could be said, but you get the idea. I hope that on Monday I maintain my streak of not being noticed speeding in Georgia. In the meantime, here is the aforementioned video I made yesterday, chronicling the trip. It is boring, but it takes 3 minutes instead of 9 hours to watch so it’s basically like time travel.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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