Steve Wallace: What we can learn from Las Vegas roads

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, reflective traffic-lane markers greeted me at night from the airport to the well-lit arterial roads leading to my residential destination. It was easy to see the path of travel.

Contrast this with the ridiculously difficult-to-see lane markers on Vancouver Island. When will it be mandatory for authorities to use reflective paint on every road marking, not only on the Island but throughout our province? All commuters deserve a well-defined and identifiable path of travel.

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There was another difference in the residential neighbourhoods — no telephone or hydro poles. How many times have we seen a side-impact fatal crash involving a pole at the side of the road? The underground wiring throughout the highly populated Nevada subdivision developments has proved to be a life-saving initiative. Maybe we should copy this initiative. How many lives would be saved?

The speed of curb construction is impressive, not only on arterial roads but in residential neighbourhoods. Curbs are laid in five- to six-metre pre-cast sections, tethered together and anchored to the pavement beneath.

This speeds construction but also makes repair of one section easier, without the necessity of a constant-pour method of installation. The curbs are made of white concrete, which makes them easier to identify at night than the dull-grey ones we have become accustomed to.

Las Vegas has the best keep-traffic-moving technology at intersections. Most cities in Canada have a timed left-turn-lane advanced-green arrow, which flashes to allow unobstructed left turns, while everyone else waits to proceed straight through an intersection.

Las Vegas, however, has added a flashing-amber arrow that follows the green flashing cycle. Instead of being stranded at an intersection facing a solid-red traffic light that prevents a left turn, drivers can turn left when unobstructed by oncoming vehicles with that flashing amber arrow. It’s designed to keep traffic moving, not idling, and it’s technology worth duplicating throughout North America.

A driver can still do a U-turn at an intersection with a left-turn green and amber flashing arrow in Las Vegas. These intersections are very large and do not have a potential to interfere with lateral drivers attempting a right turn on a solid-red traffic light.

Semi-trailer trucks on the interstate have skirting on the trailer from in front of the back wheels to behind the front wheels. It’s a means of reducing the drag on the unit. There is no intention to make this mandatory in the U.S. But it does seem like a good idea.

Some stop signs are not only enormous, but lit by flashing red lights all around the octagonal shape. They’re very noticeable at critical high-volume intersections. It makes drivers pay much more attention to dangers that might be less than obvious. Maybe it’s just a Vegas thing — everything lit to the hilt.

There are also different day-night speed limits on the highway, with limits lower at night. This is a longstanding practice that many areas in the U.S. have embraced. The death rate at night is troublesome. The dedicated highway patrol takes high-speed travel very seriously — there are no gaps in enforcement presence. It’s 24-7.

Would that our jurisdiction gave the same attention to this kind of enforcement, as opposed to the patchwork coverage that we currently have.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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