Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.


Every year I record the most significant, the most valuable, the most life-changing, the most…um, never-mind, not sure where headed with all that… Anyway, let me just say, when municipalities receive traffic complaints, they generally fall into one of 38 categories. Below are the top 32. We call these, Traffic-isms.

*UPDATE: my editor reduced my list from 32 to 2. However, I was able to negotiate for three, maybe four…

1. “Where you have a lot of cars, you have a lot of traffic.”

This is true. More cars = more traffic = congestion. And the conventional approach to reducing congestion is adding lanes, adding turn lanes, adding new roads with turn lanes, etc. Often, a better “first step” is simply to re-time the traffic signal. Or, use technology to coordinate adjacent signals so you encounter all green lights. This is a real thing (thank you alien technology!).

2. “Roundabouts are not for U-turns. (Well, maybe.)”

This is false. Roundabouts are interesting. They are basically a 4-way yield. I know it sounds scary, but when everyone yields to traffic already in the roundabout, they generally work quite well. But, when an over-abundance of signs communicate complicated rules, well, don’t get me started. And guess what? Roundabouts are indeed a great place to make U-turns! This is becoming more and more necessary as driveways near roundabouts may find it difficult (or impossible in the case of curbed medians) to exit left but can quite easily exit to the right. And the presence of a nearby roundabout provides an easy and safe means of making the required U-turn. And in a school setting, roundabouts not only “slow” traffic but also allow busses to easily make U-turns (unless they don’t want to turn around – they aren’t required to turn around. That was just an example).

3. “When you’re not sure who has the right of way, it’s probably not you.”

This is also true. I know it’s contrary to every but-I-was-here-first emotion, but if you’re waiting at a stop sign and not sure who should go first, it’s probably not you (even if you are the only car there). The exception is when another driver is waving you on. Don’t assume they read this column. Wave back. And if after several minutes of waving no one has budged, call 911. He may need help — I can’t tell you how many times I could have been side-swiped if I put my life in the hands of some stranger “waving me on” (four times).

4. (Nope. Just three.) *Reference above update

I hope this not only gives you food for thought, but also makes you think of food. And with that, let me leave you with a quote from my good friend, Zig Ziglar, “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”

Chet Skwarcan has over 25 years of traffic engineering experience and can be reached at