We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

We Can Learn From Sin City’s Traffic Flow

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, November 11 2016


Las Vegas traffic rules make sense.

My recent trip to the Nevada mecca gave me a chance to see first-hand how a city can make visitors comfortable with driving manoeuvres that at first glance seem strange but are instead exceedingly logical.

Take, for instance, the legal U-turn at virtually all major and most minor intersections.

Yes, it is legal to do a U-turn, when the traffic light is flashing green in your favour at intersections with ample space to do so.

Most drivers will use the flashing green light to do an unobstructed left turn. Others will take the opportunity to do a U-turn at that same location.

Of course, all pedestrian traffic is suspended when both of these actions are taken by vehicular traffic.

The separation of pedestrians and vehicle right-of-way is a key to the smooth and structured way Las Vegas moves people, whether they be on foot or in vehicles.

There used to be some intersections where all vehicular traffic would stop and yield to pedestrian movement. This seemed to work very well in the downtown area.

New Zealand also has “scatter” intersections, where pedestrians can move forward, laterally or even diagonally across an intersection while all vehicular traffic must come to a complete stop and wait their turn.

Conversely, all pedestrian traffic must stop while vehicles move, unobstructed in various cycles, through the very busy intersections.

Surely, the conflict with vulnerable pedestrians trying to cross the road, at the same time as drivers are attempting to turn right and left, would be greatly reduced.

Authorities in every province of our country should seriously consider adding these proven traffic-control techniques to our commuter system.

Synchronizing traffic lights is another technique Las Vegas uses to keep the traffic moving. We would do well to copy this program of efficient traffic control.

There are some jurisdictions that have returned to the manual changing of traffic lights, depending on the directional demand, from a command centre.

This is a possible way to ease the fear among commuters during the biggest provincial bottleneck solution — the McKenzie intersection construction project.

Flaggers are part of the solution for easing traffic congestion. It is about time we caught on to the modern measures of technology that are used all over the world.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but instead copy best practices of parallel jurisdictions.

There were all sorts of simple traffic circles, roundabouts and neighbourhood diverters in Nevada neighbourhoods, which kept the traffic moving.

None, however, were as confusing as “Spaghetti Junction” (commonly referred to as the McTavish interchange) here in the Victoria region.


Many drivers are surprised to learn of the reduction in crashes at this roundabout location since it came into being.

The fear that this triple bypass would cause heart attacks, as opposed to prevent them, have not been realized.

Las Vegas drivers have embraced the “zipper merge,” without the conflict so often experienced on Vancouver Island.

Whenever drivers must co-operate by merging to fewer lanes on any busy highway, it seems to be done in an orderly, alternating fashion.

They merge at source, as opposed to miles (or as we say, kilometres) ahead. This will eliminate the unnecessary long single line of vehicular traffic.

In fairness to the authorities here on the Island, they have actually erected flashing light signs explaining the zipper principle.

Drivers merging late are not cheaters, but instead they are conforming to an expected international blending action, strange to some locals but logical to most everyone else.



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