Tips for Safely Driving In LA Traffic

April 15, 2024 Car Accident

California is notorious for congested traffic conditions, especially in Los Angeles and the surrounding region including the major thoroughfare of the 405 freeway. Unlike New York’s Manhatten which spans less than 23 square miles and developed upwards in its famous skyrise structures, LA is a sprawling urban mecca spanning over 502 square miles. This makes traversing LA using public transit systems difficult or impossible. With most LA residents driving daily, the LA traffic is a congested, chaotic daily muddle. It can take hours to traverse the city with traffic that moves at eight to ten miles per hour and halts completely for an accident or on one of La’s rare rainy days.

If you are new to LA traffic, there are several safety tips to consider and some unique laws and traffic rules that the Encino car accident attorneys share below.

Los Angeles skyline

Plan Ahead for the Best Routes

Before heading out to reach any LA destination, check out the morning traffic updates and plan your route carefully to avoid the most congested areas. If you have flexibility in your schedule plan outings around rush hour traffic. Once you head out to brave the LA traffic, use your GPS’s alternate route alert feature to avoid traffic snags.

Use the HOV Lanes Correctly

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes are the far left lanes on many LA highways reserved for vehicles carrying two or three occupants, depending on the signs marked at entrance points. These lanes have a diamond-shaped marker indicating they are carpool lanes with limited access. Drivers may only enter the HOV lane in places where there are breaks in the double yellow lines marking the lane.

By sharing a journey with a second or third person you can take advantage of faster travel in a HOV lane, but be aware that you may not use these lanes when pulling a trailer.

Be Lane Savvy

LA freeways have six to eight lanes of traffic, typically filled with aggressive drivers who change lanes without signaling, cut people off without a second thought, and weave through lanes just to get a car length ahead as though it’s their win of the day. If you aren’t comfortable driving in this environment, stay in the right lane as much as possible. Avoid the middle lanes where the most aggressive weaving takes place. The fastest traffic uses the left lane. If you do choose to use middle or left lanes, plan far ahead for exits so you have plenty of time to change lanes safely. You can also avoid freeways whenever possible by choosing the “avoid freeways” option on your smartphone GPS app.

Be Wary of LA Traffic Laws and Road Rules

California has some laws that are unique to the state and others that aren’t common in other locations. If you’re new to LA roadways a few things might surprise you, including the following:

  • Motorcycle lane-splitting is legal in California. A motorcyclist may ride the lines between lanes to get ahead in slow-moving traffic.
  • Holding a cell phone for any reason while driving is a traffic violation and may result in an expensive citation. Hands-free technology is a must in LA traffic.
  • It’s illegal to smoke in a vehicle if there are minors inside the car.
  • LA often has sobriety checkpoints in areas around entertainment venues, so this is yet another reason to never get behind the wheel after drinking.
  • There are paid expressways such as Route 91 that require a fee and a window badge for use to bypass heavy traffic. Be wary of accidentally ending up on this expressway in places where it merges with the carpool lane. Using the paid expressway without a badge triggers automatic cameras to photograph your license tag and send you a ticket.
  • Most California freeways do not have logo signs that alert you to gas stations, hotels, and fast-food restaurants in the exit areas.

Finally, be wary of unexpected road curves and dips unique to California terrain. These have been known to take unfamiliar drivers by surprise and cause accidents or sudden, ramp-like launches that leave them feeling like a Hollywood stunt driver.

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