Was big-city driving in the '40s really like L.A. Noire?

(Not sure if this belongs in GQ or Game Room; posting it here for now.)

I picked up the PC version of L.A. Noire recently, and while it’s not quite a perfect game, i’ve found myself enthralled by the level of detail that’s gone into recreating the streets of LA. Having spent enough time there when I lived in southern CA, it’s a real treat to be driving around in the game and see places that i’ve actually been to. It’s almost a shame I can’t pull over and stop at Phillippe’s for a French dip.

I found myself thinking that driving in L.A. Noire is a lot like driving in LA in real life - every light is always red all the time, nobody respects right-of-way, and it takes 20 minutes to go six blocks. After playing a few cases, I found myself spending more time driving than anything else. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to be brought up on ethics violations for misusing my authority, and it was much easier to leave the siren on full blare all the time and just zip down the wrong side of the road to my destination.

The period where I did attempt to follow the rules of the road, however, left me thinking that driving in the city those days must have been a complete ordeal compared to today. It’s possible that the developers simplified some elements for gameplay purposes, but from what i’ve seen in the game, 1947 Los Angeles traffic seems to work something like this;

  • Traffic lights are red and green only. No yellow night, no turn arrows.
  • No designated left turn lanes and very few designated right turn lanes.
  • Cars turning left do so immediately when the light turns green without yielding to oncoming traffic.
  • There are no red octagonal stop signs; intersections without traffic lights are entirely uncontrolled.
  • Cars do not have turn signals or brake lights. There is no way in the game for the player to signal a turn, and NPC vehicles do not make use of hand signals.

I doubt we have many Dopers who were actually old enough to be motorists in the late '40s, but I’m quite curious as to how accurate the way traffic works in the game is compared to how it worked in real life. I’ve always loved the style and the look of the old vintage automobiles, but I shudder to think of actually driving one of those tanks if those are the conditions my great-grandparents had to deal with on the road.

Turn signals first started coming out in 1938, so I can believe that some cars were still lacking them in 1947. I don’t know about brake lights, but picture of cars from back then certainly seem to have them.

BTW, you know you can have your partner drive, right?

It’s a shame that driving is such a pain in the ass in the game. They did a beautiful job putting in so much detail on the streets, but it’s annoying to constantly ask your partner for directions (I’d much rather get a line on the minimap like Red Dead Redemption) and it seems at times that driving takes up at least half the game time.

This website, for one – http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2011/09/09/los-angeles-1940s/ – shows LA street traffic c. 1948.