Driving, Los Angeles
People flock from all over the country, maybe even all over the world, to have a go at success in the "City of Dreams". Yet, I find it ironic that nearly every one of these individuals somehow lacks all sensibility in driving. Los Angeles has THE WORST DRIVERS I have ever encountered. Every day I leave my stuffy, overpriced apartment to tango with death. From sudden lane changes with no turn signal to erratic "brakers," you better stay absolutely alert while battling on the highways of this fair city. First time visitors, don't be confused, you have not arrived at the wrong destination. This is not England.. nor Asia. Yes, I know the traffic flows oddly reciprocal to the rest of the country. Apparently in L.A. passing lanes are on the right, while the slow traffic seems to settle to the left-most lanes. Sometimes every lane is the "slow" lane! ..as drivers in every lane come together, hand-in-hand, to drive 10 below the speed limit, catching all traffic behind it. All in all, if it doesn't kill you, driving in L.A. can give you a huge boost of self esteem. Merge onto the I-5, 405, or the 101 and you'll instantly feel like the most intelligent human-being on this planet. And one more hot tip, traveler, if there's rain on the ground, don't bother getting in your car.
If you are on the freeway coming from the East on the 10 and in the car pool lane and want to get to the North 5, make sure you GET OUT of the car pool lane well in advance. If you don't you will end up downtown and lost. I got stuck in the car pool lane thinking it would break off to the connecting freeways, but I was wrong. Got lost in downtown LA on the way to a concert. Eventually found my way back, but for the out of stater...it would be a nightmare.
Those of us who live in Los Angeles talk of our "accidents" with caprice and disregard. There are accidents ALL THE TIME. Never, in any of my travels, have I found a more incompetent population of drivers. If you drive here, be very, VERY aware, and super-concious. The idea of "looking in a mirror before changing lanes" seems to have been skipped in Driver's Ed. Those "CHiPs" episodes with calamitous accidents and ludicrous, air-bound vehicles? Yeah, that really happens here!
Let me assure you: Los Angeles is continuously ranked among the worst cities for crime in the U.S. But, the real danger lies in the driving. Our insurance rates are sky-high for a reason. Oh, and this being the holidays, there will be numerous traffic delays due to "Christmas trees in lanes".
Here's a link to actual Los Angeles accident footage: http://youtube.com/watch?v=e0QgjUH96O4
If you are trying to park your car on the street in LA, beware of street parking rules. Read the signs carefully.
Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica have the most strict rules. Often require city issued Resident Permit. In addition, the rules can be very convoluted and unclear. If you are unsure, keep driving around because the parking police will give you a ticket if you parked incorrectly.
If the law says you can only park there for two hours. Obey it because the parking police will actually go around and mark your tires with white chalk. They'll issue a ticket if they come around and find a chalk mark on your tire.
Coming from the east coast, I find the whole valet parking thing a strange phenomenon. There's even valet parking for diners in certain locations, i.e. Beverly Hills. Valet parking can vary from $3 to $10 depending on venue. On top of that, you have to tip the valet for driving your car.
So to counter this obscene money-making scam, there's usually street parking within 2-3 blocks from almost any restaurant/bar/club. Try to find a side street off the main street. You just have to walk a little.
But but but do pay attention to the parking signs so you don't get a parking ticket.
L.A. is notorious for bad driving especially when it rains. If you happen to come during the fall and winter when there is the most potential for the wet stuff, be aware of drivers who still do the speed limit or faster on the slick streets and freeways.
It's pretty late at night when my friend and I were driving from Download LA to East LA for a supper on 10 West. There's a pretty old car on my left side of the lane and I just looked at the driver for 2 secs and than looked back to the front mirror. What happened next was that crazy driver speeded up and without giving a signal light merger right infront of us then pressed the brake! There's not much time and space for my friend to brake so he changed the lane in an instance. Glad he's quick with his response or else I can't even type here. That crazy guy just accelerated and went off!
Don't forget that if we hit that car, we have to pay him! Even he is doing it on purpose!
so DON'T EVER STARE AT OTHER DRIVERS! You don't know what's going to happen next!
Before my first trip to LA & renting a car I thought I'd get a heads up by reading tips on the driving conditions there. All that did was cause unnessesary anxiety! I promise, driving in LA is NOT THAT BAD. My number one tip is this: Just don't get on the freeways. Seriously! You can zip across town, from Marina Del Rey area to Hollywood hills in less than 20 minutes if you avoid the freeways. Everyone seems to think that's the only way to get anywhere and so that's why the freeways are clogged leaving the city streets open. I drove all over LA and never once experienced standing traffic, even at 5pm on a Friday. **You do need to be a little gutsy with merges and turns and people drive their cars very close to one another so that took getting used to. It does help to have printed out detailed maps from google for whereever you are going, too. Other than that, it was no problem for this small town driver!
Driving the freeways through Los Angeles can definitely be frustrating - traffic in certain areas is a slow crawl even in off hours. My advice to all travelers: avoid the 405 if you can.
Many LA drivers are distracted ... cell phones, newspapers, kids, I once saw a man playing with Barbie dolls at every intersection - I'm not joking. People eat brakefast while driving, put on makeup, shave ... For whatever reason Angelenos love getting ready for whatever is next while they drive. We're a big city with a lot of people, so we have more than our share of bad drivers!
Road rage is a reality here. I'll never forget a man in a big truck getting angry at me because, from a left turn lane, I wouldn't pull far enough into traffic to make it stop so I could make the turn. He actually hit the back of my car so he could push me into the traffic. It can happen. I've also come across incredibly courteous drivers, so not everyone is rotten.
Be patient while driving in Los Angeles ... and vigilant. You never know what may happen. However, if you stay on your toes everything should be fine.
Los Angeles drivers flout the rules of the road regularly and in a highly visible manner. Things you would never see outside Rome you commonly see on the streets here, especially the west side of town. The way people throw around their $80,000 cars would amaze mere mortals. Once someone ran a radio call-in survey, and the majority of people answered the question "How many cars can legally go through a light after it changes from green to red?" with "Three to four."
For nearly a year now I've been taking pictures of people I see breaking the law and putting them up on my blog. Each photo is tagged with a date and a location, and most of them were posted more or less in real time. You can check them out here: http://latraffic.blogspot.com/ Frankly, at over 2000 photos, it's less of a blog and more of a data set.
Anyway, as for advice, I'd say get yourself a stick shift transmission, put your phone in your pocket, and get out there and feel the road. Anything else is just posturing.
Rude drivers are everywhere but in LA, there are bit more than othe places. (New York has quite a bit of rude drivers too) Make sure you stay alert when driving and if you are a few secs slow on accelerating your car when the sign changes, you will be horned by others.
One more thing, when you change lanes, make sure if you give the signal light, LOOK if there's any car accelerating on the lane you want to merge in. Many rude drivers won't let you merge to "their" lane and so will speed up.
What I sometimes do is that I let then speed up first and then merge into that lane.
Don't forget that some drivers want to claim their insurance on you! Since you are merging to "their" lane, if there's an accident, is your fault even if they speed up!
Ok keep your eyes everywhere when your driving. I cant say it enough. I was driving on (Well sitting in traffic on) Santa Monica Blvd when these Motorcyclists kept coming between the cars to get ahead of the traffic. They also do it on the freeways. So be on the look out for them before you make any lane changes or anything as they just pop up out of no where..
In alot of parking lots in LA there are sharp spikes that will shred your tires if you try to go out the wrong way. Stop lights on exit ramps getting on the hwy are unusual. Some areas of town are dangerous, Compton, South Central...Watch what part of town you are in.
LA is a tangle of freeways and sprawling suburbs and without a car you are seriously handicapped. Even with a car you will have to learn the system of the freeways and have some patience in dealing with the traffic, it's a nightmare.
Always allow plenty of time to get to where you are going especially in rush hours. On one occasion it took 2 1/2 hours by shuttle to get from LAX to Anaheim in peak traffic.
For tourists, Los Angeles is fun and huge so 'please don't get lost' - plan your road trips ahead or better go with organized tour buses. Know what areas you should avoid when travelling at night. Have a fun and safe trip.