by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Nearly a year after the Georgia Department of Transportation opened up a portion of the shoulder on Ga. 400 for a rush-hour travel lane, an Alpharetta man claims that decision could have cost him his life.
Terrance Roper told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik he was driving to work Friday morning when he got a flat tire and pulled over onto the shoulder, just north of Northridge Drive.
“There was no other place for me to go,” he said. “That’s all I had left because my car had broken down at that point.”
The portion of lane where Roper stopped was open as a travel lane, and Roper said most of the cars saw his flashers on and shifted lanes. But Roper said one car didn’t stop in time and barreled into him.
“I remember some spinning, glass was shattering, and when it came to a stop, I was able to crawl out the passenger side,” he said.
Roper said minutes after he escaped from his Toyota Higlander, the vehicle caught fire, then exploded.
“When it exploded, it really looked like something out of a movie,” he said. “It really is a miracle that I’m sitting here, talking and only having a few injuries like this. I really could have been dead. Period.”
Roper said he believes the shoulder lane concept is inherently dangerous and that GDOT should re-evaluate the experiment.
“I feel like the average person isn’t going to pull over into the grass because it’s a shoulder lane and for the most part [or] the day, it still remains a shoulder,” he said. “They probably need to be closed, probably need to be turned back into shoulder lanes and just find another option to try to alleviate traffic.”
Petchenik brought Roper’s concerns to GDOT’s deputy commissioner, Todd Long.
Long told Petchenik the department was still gathering data on the effectiveness of the shoulder lane.
“Certainly we are trying our best to make sure we have the safest situation possible,” he said.
Long told Petchenik this kind of accident could have happened on any travel lane, not just the shoulder lane.
“As people travel on the road, they need to pay attention to what’s in front of them,” he said. “Obviously if a car is stalled in a regular travel lane, the same kind of accidents can happen in that situation.”
The stretch in question, from Holcomb Bridge Road to Northridge Road, has several emergency pull-off locations on that route. Roper told Petchenik one of the pull-offs was not near him when his tire blew out.
Long said it wouldn’t be feasible to add more of the pull-off locations.
“There are other places in the corridor (to pull over). There’s a grass shoulder. You can pull over in the grass,” he said. “Some places you can’t pull over.”
Sandy Springs police cited the driver who hit Roper with following too closely. Overall, Long said his office had not heard of any other major safety issues on the shoulder lane.