No one said traffic rules should make sense

There are rules, and then there are rules.

The first kind are those that we understand. We might not like them all the time — rural highway speed limits come to mind — but we get why our elected officials have enacted them. They make a certain sort of sense. Public safety and whatnot.

The other kind? These are the rules we do not get at all. Why can’t I go the regular speed limit in some school zones when the kids are all locked up inside again? Oh, that’s right, because nothing makes sense in the world. That’s why.

All of this brings us to Tom, who is so incensed that he wrote twice with this question:

“I travel the 215 Southern Beltway quite often,” he wrote in an email. “Why ‘No Right Turn On Red’ on Rainbow Boulevard going north? That would be driving west on the 215. Traffic is always needlessly backed up, wasting pricey fuel.”

Because of rules, Tom.

That intersection is under the control of Clark County, and Clark County has rules that we must all abide by.

Dan Kulin, a county spokesman, pointed out that Tom is talking about a double right turn lane there. The county doesn’t allow a right turn on red at any double right turn lanes, Kulin said. That’s iron-clad.

Typically, local entities follow federal guidelines set down in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control devices, which helps keep traffic laws, uh, uniform around the country. This is why stop signs are red and traffic cones are orange.

But the manual doesn’t address this issue at all.

Out in northwest Las Vegas, there’s a double right turn lane at Ann Road and U.S. Highway 95. You can turn right on red from the right, inside lane, but the sign prohibits you from doing so from the outside right turn lane.

I checked with Diana Paul, a city of Las Vegas spokeswoman. Their rules are a little more forgiving than the county’s.

“It is true that the city of Las Vegas looks at each location individually and determines the best traffic engineering solution for the respective situation,” she wrote in an email. “Though most dual right turns have signs displayed to prevent right turns on red, there are some locations that conditions allow this movement to be safely made, and we take that into consideration when allowing this movement.”

She pointed out, too, that state statutes and the federal manual dictate what local rules end up being enacted.

“There is no prohibition within either of these two documents preventing motorists from making right turns on red from the right lane of a dual right turn, though sound engineering judgment must be displayed whenever we make a decision to do so.”

So, like I said, there are rules. And then there are Clark County’s rules.

Bill wrote in with another complaint about red lights. These are at the westbound Charleston Boulevard entrance to U.S. 95.

He said he has been driving through there for years now.

“All of a sudden a metering light was installed and has completely jammed up the traffic flow on WB Charleston to get on this ramp. The traffic backs up so bad and there is a bus stop right after Sacramento Street that adds to the backup even more. This now adds an extra 10 or 15 minutes to my already lengthy commute. How can we get this metering light removed?”

These metering lights went active back in July. The Regional Transportation Commission, which governs traffic light timing in the valley, explained that the lights would generally be operated during rush hour in the morning and afternoon. The aim is to keep traffic flowing smoothly, of course. Not to bottle it up.

I checked with Sue Christiansen, an agency spokeswoman, who said they would look into Bill’s complaint.

A week went by. They asked for more time. School was about to start, and they wanted to get an accurate look at how things would go with the increased traffic flow.

Christiansen got back to me this past week and said adjustments were made there just before I sent them Bill’s complaint.

Everything seemed to be working fine since then, she said.

But they promised to keep an eye on it, just in case.

Got a transportation question, comment or gripe? Ship it off to Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.

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