I, a native Californian, drove on Nevada freeways for a week and am amazed at how well everyone gets along, especially on the freeway.
Few egos, the left-most lane is only for passing, and most drivers drove around the same speed, I was in driving heaven.
The annual family vacation had us choose Las Vegas as our destination of choice. With one of a handful of resorts available through our timeshare near the strip, a place we all haven’t visited in years, it was an easy choice this year. The only difference is that I’m a little older, am, in my opinion, a better driver now than I was before, and am the designated main driver for our family. I did the majority of the driving.
Like most Californians from the Central Valley, we snaked our way through Interstate 15 to get to Las Vegas. But while we were there, I often drove on the surrounding freeways including the 215 and 159 and sometimes on the smaller freeways like the 610 when we visited Nellis Air Force Base.
I’ve driven through Nevada at least once before so perhaps I wasn’t really paying attention but this time, the differences between California and Nevada drivers really stood out to me.
For one, there was a general lack of ego among Nevada drivers. It seems like, even in the middle of nowhere California on Highway 99, California drivers are ALWAYS trying to beat each other. It’s as if we drive around with a chip on our shoulders and need to show our fellow drivers, in a show of dominance, how we’re better just by driving at a slightly higher speed. Such was not the case in Nevada.
People weren’t slow but generally, everyone drove around the same speed. And if I did want to drive at the speed limit, I could! If I was driving around the speed limit I was in the rightmost lane, but it was a possiblity and no one gave me dirty stares because of it. If you’re not a Semi truck hauling something in a 53 foot trailer in California, driving at the speed limit is impossible.
Which brings me to speed limit. In California, a 65 MPH speed limit really means 72-75 MPH in the right lanes and you better be passing and going 80 and above in the leftmost lanes. Not so in Nevada. Everyone more or less drove just a smidge higher than the posted speed limit. When we went to the Red Rock Casino and Resort, driving on the 215, which, by the way, is a lovely freeway, no one went above 75 MPH in the posted 65 MPH zone, it was so relaxing.
An area of contention on most freeways is the passing lane. While I was driving on Nevada freeways, the leftmost lane indeed WAS the passing lane. Seldom were there any left lane campers. On California freeways, with most people driving above the speed limit, someone driving 70 MPH in a 65 MPH zone might feel justified driving 70 MPH in the leftmost lane. “Hey, I’m driving above the speed limit, I should be good.” But in reality on California freeways, such is not the case. If you’re in the left lane in California, if you’re not passing everyone on the right lane, your caravan of drivers should be in the high 80s if not approaching 90 MPH. In Nevada, with the general flow of traffic actually around the speed limit, the passing lane works a lot better.
Around town and normal city driving, I found Nevada residents to be on par if not better than when I drive in California.
As we made our way back to our Central Valley home it was like a switch, a night and day difference between California and Nevada. Once we made our way through Bakersfield and onto the 99, cars were passing us on the left well above the speed limit as per usual. Highway 99 is a two-lane highway for a good chunk so it’s particularly frustrating when truck drivers drive 65 MPH in the left lane but the right lane is going at a higher 80 MPH and above, there’s no happy medium I’d like to cruise at.
Nevada, y’all might be in the desert but so is a large chunk of us Californians. A big driving difference is how nice you all are on the freeway. Thank you for making my time in Nevada quite pleasant on the roads.
And as for us Californians, we can learn a thing or two from our neighbors.