Los Angeles is the second-most populous city in the United States. With just under 3.9 million residents, Los Angeles has more car accidents that lead to injuries or death than any other city in California.
California, in general, however, has a relatively low rate of traffic accidents.
In 2021, Los Angeles had 12,567 accidents, which means there were around 35 traffic accidents each day.
Along with the risk of accidents, driving in Los Angeles is also tricky because there’s so much traffic. Commute times are often extremely long.
The following are seven things any driver in Los Angeles should know, whether you’re a long-time resident, you’re just moving there, or you’re visiting.
1. The Traffic
Los Angeles is huge, with a metropolitan area that’s nearly 34,000 square miles. In the larger metro area, there are around 18 million residents. The city and the surrounding metro have some of the worst traffic in the world.
During peak times of rush hour, there are some freeways with traffic moving at around eight miles an hour.
Taking a ride that should be thirty minutes can easily turn into an hour or more.
When multiple accidents happen, freeways come to a complete standstill. When people are trying to leave the city before a holiday, you can also expect that traffic might be at a standstill.
There’s often no way to avoid the traffic altogether, so you need to plan ahead and give yourself time to get where you’re going.
Weekday rush hour in Los Angeles is usually from 7-10 a.m. The evening rush hour is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
On weekend nights, there can be a lot of traffic going into and out of downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood.
2. The Freeways
There are a dozen major freeways that go for hundreds of miles, connecting the different regions of Los Angeles and the surrounding metro. If you’re driving on the freeway, make sure you leave early for big events, and avoid the gridlock hours. You can also try your best to avoid the 405, which is heavily congested.
The carpool lane is open all day, every day, and if you have passengers, you can use it. Most carpool lanes require at least two occupants in the car, but some require three. You’ll see the number marked at the entrance.
When you’re on the freeway, the far right lane is considered a slow lane, but on a multi-lane expressway, it’s also an exit lane. Don’t drive in this lane for long periods of time.
Some freeways in Los Angeles have six lanes, so give yourself adequate time to cross multiple lanes if you need to exit. Avoid trying to get off the freeway at the last minute because you’ll have to cut people off, which is dangerous.
The city of Los Angeles is a grid for the most part, and streets run north to south and east to west.
If you’re trying to go east or west, you should take Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s a bigger street, and it doesn’t clog as much as others. You’ll probably move pretty quickly through Beverly Hills, and then you can turn up toward Hollywood.
On Wilshire Boulevard, by contrast, the traffic can be so heavy that it takes you 30 minutes to go a mile.
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If you have to travel between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, or southern destinations along the 405, consider La Cienega.
4. Beware of Distracted Drivers
California law requires drivers to use only hands-free devices when they’re driving, but even so, they tend to be among the most distracted in the country. This could be due to the fact that so many Los Angeles residents have such long commutes. They might be trying to save time during their day by multitasking when they’re behind the wheel.
You might see people reading, texting, putting on makeup, snacking, or doing any number of other activities.
Make sure that you’re a defensive driver and that you’re well aware of your surroundings at all times.
5. Crisscrossing Ramps
Los Angeles isn’t the only city in America with crisscrossing freeway ramps, but they can be pretty dangerous and harrowing here. If you’re near downtown, the 5, 10, 101, and 110 freeways intersect, which can be especially nerve-wracking.
Drive defensively, or if you’d rather avoid the crisscrossing ramps altogether, you can opt for surface streets.
6. Beware of Rainy Days
Los Angeles weather is known for being warm and sunny year-round. That’s one of the reasons people love to live there and visit so much. However, the mild weather means that drivers in Los Angeles aren’t prepared for anything outside of the norm, including rainy weather.
Even a light drizzle can make traffic in Los Angeles even more of a nightmare.
When it’s drizzling, it can make the roads covered in oil slicker than usual. Be very careful when it’s raining, and think about not only how you’re driving but be prepared for the fact that other Los Angeles drivers aren’t used to the wet roads.
Finding a free parking spot on the street is possible in Los Angeles, but it’s not necessarily easy. Make sure that you avoid parking spots that are painted red or green. Red means they’re restricted, and green means it’s short-term parking.
Read all the restrictions on the street signs before you leave your car as well.
You’ll need to be an adept parallel parker, and you have to park quickly. Otherwise, you’re going to be blocking a street or lane for too long. If you see a yellow curb, it’s for commercial loading only. A white curb is for a maximum of five minutes, only for passenger loading and unloading.
A blue curb is for disabled people or their drivers, and you have to display a parking placard or a license plate.
Finally, you will inevitably face aggressive drivers in Los Angeles. There may be a few cases of road rage every once and a while, and there are plenty of drivers who ride the bumper of people in front of them. Prepare yourself for possible road rage, and remember that even though you can’t control what other drivers are doing, you can control yourself.