15 Tips for New Los Angeles Drivers
Driving in Los Angeles is unlike any other place you have been to. You could find yourself cruising on a beautiful, sunny day, down from Torrance, North on PCH. And then, all of a sudden find yourself in the middle of unfamiliar territory, or even a riot in Santa Monica, near the pier. As you dodge bricks and bottles, you ask yourself, what are some safety tips for drivers new to Los Angeles. Most of us locals are aware of the risks of driving motor vehicles in Los Angeles, CA. And if you're from the U.K., you still have to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road! So it's no fool's errand.
You may have just relocated to a new job and are learning your way to and from your new house. But when you first start out traveling, in a significant, unfamiliar locale like L.A. County can be terrifying. To begin with, while you may recognize photographs of famous landmarks like the Rose Bowl, for example, it is unlikely you or any visitors in your entourage understand the routes to get to them by heart.
Also, people fro smaller towns can become easily distracted by all the billboards, flashing signs, and other sights. But like anything else, a little recon work goes a long way to prepare for a trip in an unfamiliar location safely. Whether you moved here, or are vacationing, a few precautions will undoubtedly help you safely drive in a new place like Greater Los Angeles. So let's work on some stress reduction and avoid the nightmares attendant with driving, or traveling in a car while visiting in Los Angeles as a guest.
First of all, breathe and count to 10 before reading this longwinded article. Next, once you arrive and before getting in your car, after arriving in L.A., do it again.
Tip 1. Research and Look for Safest Routes Before Arrival.
It's not just our world-famous SIGALERTS you should look at. As noted above, if you are preparing for a trip to Los Angeles, California, and landing at LAX, for example, take some time to do some research about rental vehicles, Uber, Lyft, taxi stands, etc. For example, the City of Los Angeles no longer allows curbside to pick up dropped of airline passengers from the airport arrivals by most ridesharing or taxi services at LAX. So that means you have to wait for a massive bus with no social distancing, drag your luggage aboard, and offload it at the designated spot.
Or, for those who are more daring, you can deal with the thick layer of diesel residue as it accumulates on your skin as you breathe it in on a brisk walk from the luggage carousel to a designated ride-sharing pick up area. Oh, and it could be more a mile or more away as you haul your bags and other luggage, cursing. TIP: Getting Out of LAX Fast and Safe! So, you are not just looking for the best routes between the places that you want to visit in the area. But yes, after you get out of the nightmare that is LAX. One the smart move is to pay a limo service and have them pay to park in the airport's paid parking structure.
These chauffeurs will meet you at the arrivals gate holding an iPad or sign with your party name. From there, they can walk with you and help you with your bags. They will walk you through the cross-walk, and get you the heck out of the area. So once you are out of the mess of LAX, you have more options and way less stress. Sure, you can use your Apple Phone Navigation, Google Wave, and other navigation apps to help you come up with the quickest routes to and from famous landmark attractions like Muscle Beach in Venice, California.
Arriving back at LAX is another matter entirely, but I would always use either a limo, sedan, or Uber-type service. Mixing up your different transportation options helps you avoid the stress associated with the lack of familiarity you'll be having when driving around a new place. But for now, let's talk about L.A. as a newcome in unfamiliar territory.
IMPORTANT: Some vehicle navigation devices are slow to act in downtown driving. So you have to pay special attention you are in the correct lane and slowing, so you don't miss your turn. Also, it's an old city with narrow streets, and many of them are one-way roads! More than one newbie driver has turned the wrong way on a one way street in Downtown L.A.
- Beware of Risks Attendant With DTLA Driving.
Most of all, when you decide to get behind the wheel, you're not going to be an expert. So be cautious while cruising in Los Angeles. Pay attention to potholes and uneven maintenance hole covers as you drive and look out for the homeless people. They are everywhere, and many of them are extremely dangerous.
Tip 2. Take Time to Adjust To L.A.
As noted above, you really must take some time to get your bearings once you arrive in an unfamiliar place like Los Angeles. And this is why it's smart to get a driver or have someone you know to pick you up at the airport. Get used to your hotel. Go for a walk and note the street names, drug stores, gas stations, and any areas that appear to be seedy or dangerous.
Get friendly with local convenience store employees and learn the good, bad, and the ugly. Most of all, learn how to pay attention to your surroundings by gathering as much evidence as possible. After all, you never know when you want to eat at a Denny's or Spires and how to get there in one piece, right? Like anything else, once you know where you are and how to navigate around town, you will be better able to drive around the city.
Because you became mentally familiar with your area, you are better able to get to the places you need to go with little problem. If you are attending a conference and staying at a hotel, you may want to know where the nearest conference rooms or Kinkos are located.
You never know when you may need to have a private meeting or have t make copies. Lawyers traveling from out of town will usually do this research, as it remains vital to trying a case in a far off jurisdiction. If you want to know the lay of the land, most hotel concierges will provide you with a paper map with coordinates of the local area. Most hotels also keep these maps in the hotel room as well.
Always ask questions of taxi drivers, front desk people, locals, and hotel employees about cool things to do and great places to eat. If possible, use the hotel's free shuttle to cut down on driving risks and to get familiar with the lay of the land. Even a total stranger may be able to lead you to California's Gold.
Tip 3. Beware the 91 Expressway Lane Traps.
Although many of you are from back east and are used to tollways and pay to use roads, many visitors assume California is all "Freeways," which are basically roads paid for with taxes, rather than by use. But this is not always true. For example, California has its underused diamond lane that is for carpools only.
Next, it has many miles of road user paid expressways in various high traffic areas of the State. Of particular interest here are the ten miles of a paid expressway called the Route 91 Expressway. Since the 91 East carpool lane tends to merge into the Route 91 Expressway, many visitors assume they are in the carpool lane. But they are wrong.
To use that stretch of uncrowded road, you pay a fee for a window badge that sends a signal authorizing you to be in that paid for use lane. If you are not allowed in the path, your license plates are photographed, and you, or your rental car company, get a ticket in the mail.
So if you are driving around Los Angeles through Riverside on the 91 East Riverside, make sure you understand the carpooling and ridesharing laws. For example, in California, a carpool on your way to Palm Springs for a gay festival, or Splash House, or to see your folks who retired in Indian Wells or Indio, you should research the toll roads and carpool lanes, so you can pay in advance, or rule out the use of these lanes.
However, beware of the Orange Crush traffic if you want to be parked on the 55 East or 91 Freeways during rush hour traffic. When traveling in Greater L.A., the idea is to be as relaxed, yet aware as possible until your final destination.
Important. Understanding Wildlife and Other Roadway Hazards.
Some us of people from other states are used to a dashing deer barely missing being hit by a truck, or a car. But in L.A., that is less common. Of course, in Big Bear, or Catalina Island, you can undoubtedly face more of those risks. One thing drivers in the neighborhood streets need to look out for are darting dogs off-leash and little kids running after a ball, for example.
And a common risk to drivers is the many pedestrians walking around and the bicyclists. Beware, you have a duty to provide a cushion of space for bicyclists. We already discussed looking out for some road hazards. But keep an eye out for curves, cliffs, hills, and dips. Areas like Palos Verdes Estates on the way to the Trump Golf Course, are notorious for dips that can make a speeding car go airborne.
Also, the area there near Terra Nea is abundant with wildlife like rabbits, raccoons, hawks, and other predators. Any of these things can present hazards at any time of the day or night. And don't forget about the prospects for black ice in the higher elevations in Rancho Palos Verdes, or Palos Verdes, which may also prove hazardous. Next, we have areas like Old Orange, or the Torrance Beach areas with their turnstiles and roundabouts.
These road features may be familiar to an Englishman. But most people, even locals, are not used to this odd entry and exit patterns.
Tip 4. Learn Where to Park in Los Angeles.
One thing is sure, in Los Angeles, everything has a price. If you are lucky enough to find street parking, your risk a vagrant or criminal breaking into your car or vandalizing your vehicle, plus, you may have to walk more than a mile once you struggle to fit into the parking space. Or, maybe you found a parking meter.
Many of these are two hours only. So don't plan on doing any drinking or partying. Why? Because parking cops will mark your ties with white chalk. And adding more coins or credits to the parking meter doesn't stop the meter maid from citing you with a sixty dollar plus parking ticket.
So unless you already have a parking space, or are paying for overnight parking, you should research where you can park, or plane to take a cab.
- Other Concerns
California requires small children traveling in a motor vehicle to use child safety or booster seats. You can read the California regulations on child restraint systems, ages, and weight, here.
Tip 5. Get Used to Your Type of Rental Car?
So the next item, assuming you are brave enough to drive in L.A., try and rent a similar auto to what you are used to driving back home. Most of the time, people try and rent a car at the airport. However, we think it is better to get a rental car after you get out of the airport area. It's just too stressful and unfamiliar to a non-Angelino. Even people who live in Los Angeles are not thrilled with the LAX locale.
So, reserve a car as close to what you usually use to commute and have Hertz or some other rental company send a driver to take to do the paperwork later. Just get a vehicle closer to where you plan to stay, if possible. So if you are used to driving a Cadillac Escalade, or another SUV, grab one. Just go with what you know and stay safe on the Los Angeles roads. Never get some exotic car rental to impress the girls.
The new dash, HUD, and other high-end dashboard features are notorious for causing sensory overload. The last thing you want is to his a dangerous intersection while operating a car wrought with strange amenities. So don't run off and get a convertible, or a hot rod, or a motorcycle, unless you already are familiar with that particular make and model. Just like a trucker needs to learn how to operate their vehicle's Jake Brakes, you need to learn the safe operation of your car and how it all works.
To recap, when driving in an unfamiliar city, you must keep your focus on what's in front of you, while you scan your mirrors. If you can reach for knobs and dials out of muscle memory, you are driving the wrong car. The last thing you need is trying to find the AC knobs, or radio's volume controls, as you try and pay attention to your GPS.
Next, make sure you have AAA or some kind of roadside assistance insurance in case your rental car suffers a breakdown while you are touring around the county. No matter what, you don't want to be stranded anywhere in an unfamiliar town. Just make sure you know that the rental car company or someone will leave you in the middle of nowhere.
Tip 6. Make Sure You Have Comms.
All you military people know what I mean. If you end up lost, out of gas, or broken down, you need that extra layer of protection that a great smartphone offers. No, no guarantee exists that you will find a cell tower signal. But if you were too inept at stopping and filling up for gas, for example, at least you have a chance at getting help.
Tip 7. Fill Up Your Gas Tank.
Assuming you failed to get a Global Positioning System (GPS), but it fails, you must have an idea where the gas stations are. This applies especially to people headed to La Quinta or Rancho Mirage, CA, for example. You have to make sure you keep gas in your tank or that you can charge your hybrid, or electric vehicle, for example. Most of all, allowing your fuel gauge to drift too far to the left can mean sleeping in your car. Tourists will likely never know how far they are from the next gas station. And this is definitely the case when heading down the 10 East, or 60 East Highways on the way to the more rural areas. Experts say that you should always keep your fuel tank 1/4 full.
- Don't Rely on a GPS to Find Gas.
Besides the fact that GPS is just one more driving distraction while driving, it can also succumb to tower signal failure, or run out of power, etc. Most vehicles actually warn the driver not to adjust or change GPS settings while operating a car. Your primary function should be to focus on the road, not try and figure out where gas is to be found. If you have a navigator in your car, let them deal with your GPS and give you verbal command, like, go left here, etc.
Traveling with a passenger who can help you get your bearings is super helpful. And as discussed above, sometimes a GPS will send you in circles or give command too late for you to make the turn necessary to follow directions. Also, sometimes the GPS data is old or outdated, and your provider is slow in updating.
Because of this, you have to step up and have a map, and other methods to avoid hazards like accidents, emergency construction, and other traffic-related issues. Only then can you be better positioned to avoid a wrongful death or serious injury as you head out into the mean streets of L.A.
Tip 8. Be Like a Marine - Be Early.
Marines are famous for filthy language and punctuality. But we can just set aside the foul mouth, and work on timeliness. If you are headed out for dinner reservations, a concert, a conference, or any event that has a specific start time, allow yourself extra time to get there. Rushing to get to your destination may cause you to violate traffic laws, such as speeding or following another vehicle too closely.
Slowing down, even if only by a few miles per hour, gives you a better chance to take note of landmarks, read road signs, identify intersections, and avoid accidents. Furthermore, speeding down unfamiliar roads might actually cost you more time if you get into an accident, get pulled over by the police, or miss a critical turn or exit and have to backtrack. You want to travel with the flow of traffic, but other drivers will be okay with you slowing down a bit, as long as you try to stay in the right-hand lane and let them pass you when an opportunity arises.
Tip 9. Avoid Rapid Rapid Lane Corrections - Just Make A U-Turn When Legal?
Ok, so this happens a lot with slow GPS systems and not being familiar with your surroundings when driving an automobile. Typically, a newer driver may miss a Freeway onramp, or offramp, or some other entry, exit, or turn in to a driveway off of a surface street. Sometimes, a newer driver, distracted by kids in the car or some other activity, may rapidly change lanes to make a rapid maneuver to make the turn.
In some cases, you may see where you want to go and try to change lanes quickly, make a rapid turn, slam on your brakes, or engage in some other unsafe maneuvers. Most importantly, don’t make an illegal U-turn or back up on the shoulder of the road. Keep yourself, your passengers, and others safe by going around the block or to the next exit and turning around. If you are using a GPS, it will adjust your route as needed.
Tip 10. Don’t Drink Booze of Smoke Weed and Drive?
First of all, rapid and sporadic lane changes and weaving left to right are common with drug users and people drinking and driving. But it could just be your woman is giving you some nookie, and you lost focus for a second. But what if you have had a few, but now you smell like an alcoholic beverage? Well, you risk getting pulled over by the L.A.P.D. for an embarrassing investigative stop and possible arrest leading to Twin Towers Jail.
And trust us, it is probably more dangerous there for a stranger than State Prison. Jail is a risk to your health far worse than consuming alcohol and taking a cab.
- And the Same Goes for Smoking Weed.
Marijuana is legal in California. So you may be tempted to get high without fear of arrest. But think again. Once you roll down your window, the officer will probably smell the skunky odor of marijuana and conduct a roadside investigation for DWI. So forget about bong tokes, drinking wine, having a cold beer, cocktails, or conducting serious business that dehydrates and exhausts you. Even fatigue could be enough to make you miss your exit.
If you plan on driving, stay hydrated straight edge. As discussed, Uber, a public bus, a taxi, or limo will help you avoid a police contact and probably keep you from getting your Driver's License Suspended. Erratically avoiding lane corrections and instead, exiting the freeway and heading back, and making a U-Turn is always better than ending up in a sideswipe, or T-Bone collision.
Tip 11. Don't Drive During Rush Hour Traffic.
As touched upon in Tip 2 above, traveling in a motor vehicle during bumper to bumper, rush hour traffic is the worst time of the day or dusk to for any driver. These high traffic times can lead to fatigue, frustration, and, in some cases, road rage. True, sometimes you can't avoid heavy traffic. Even when it's not rush hour, road construction and fender benders pulled off to the should tend to slow traffic to a snail's pace.
But no matter what, you must eliminate as many negative factors associated with driving in a new area as possible. Heavy traffic simply makes it harder for you to navigate your way. California drivers are notorious for speeding up when you signal to make a lane change, and aggressive driving seems to pervade the major freeways and routes. It will be difficult to safely arrive at your exit unless you stay in the slow lane behind the big rigs.
Trying to see around a big truck makes focusing on finding that miniature golf course, or amusement park you are driving towards. Plus, your focus is no longer on the road; it's on trying to spot your destination. So try and avoid the stress of heavy road traffic by traveling before or after the peak travel times. Get there in once piece!
Tip 13. Use Rest Stops.
Especially because you want to see the sights, you want to find the designated rest areas before you begin your driving route. But its also part of staying calm, clearing your head, and gathering your thoughts. So when driving for prolonged periods, you and your passengers should pull off when safe, stretch, refresh, hydrate, urinate, and build confidence.
You're almost there! Assuming you ran into bad weather, take some time to inspect the vehicle. Make sure your wiper blades are good if it's raining, etc. Remember that you need to increase following distance during snow, ice, and rain. Especially in California, fresh rain raises oil and grease above the asphalt. So the roads are very slippery when wet here.
You may wish to consider parking and letting the rainstorm oil wash away, staying at a hotel, or getting a Lyft or a Taxi to complete your trip in these scary situations. Besides, do you want to come home from vacation, needing a vacation? Tip 12.
Tip 14. Makes Use Of Hand or Turn and Other Signals.
Sometimes your turn signal fails for whatever reason, or you simply don't want to use it because the guy in the other lane always speeds up! Well, that's California for you. But you are not them.
Be courteous, especially when driving in an unfamiliar city. Always use hand or the vehicle's turn signals when changing lanes, or turning your vehicle. If you feel someone is following you to close, you may decide to tap your brakes lightly. After all, the guy behind you may be daydreaming.
Also, inclement weather may lead to decreased visibility. So make sure and stay out of the fast lane. Nothing pisses off a California driver more than a slow car in the fast lane. If you are having a hard time reading street signs or markers, slow down and read the markers as visibility increases with closer distances.
Just let the drivers pass if you are on a single lane highway. Do what you can to avoid angering others, while avoiding terrible accidents and getting there safely.
To recap, avoiding a potential motor vehicle accident in an unfamiliar place like Los Angeles takes training and education. The fear of driving a vehicle on the unfamiliar street and alleyways of L.A. can be terrifying to a newbie.
But you don't always have to drive, and you certainly don't need to be scared if you are doing everything properly. These above steps in staying safe when driving in an unfamiliar city or town, are just a few tips.
Most of all, with preparation, comes confidence, and with repetition comes good driving habits. So focus on safely driving as you begin your journey navigating the streets of Los Angeles.
Keep in mind; there are people on our roads who are not here legally, and who may not care about, or be familiar with our driving laws. And even citizens don't always obey traffic safety regulations here. So you are always at risk for a crash in L.A. because you have no control over the negligent acts of inattentive or reckless people sharing the roads. Just drive carefully and use your mirrors.
Tip 15. Get a Lawyer if You Get Hurt in a Vehicle Collision.
Last, when or if you become injured in a Los Angeles Traffic accident while traveling around town, you must get worthy legal assistance. And you must do so immediately, do not pass go. Failure to maintain liability insurance on your car means you may not get money for pain and suffering, so don't lie when you rent your car.
Since you already have insurance, and it's the other person's fault, your attorneys will make a liability insurance claim for you. Even if you are out of state, your local attorney will stay in constant contact with you to make sure the other person pays their fair share.
Once you file an auto liability insurance claim, your local attorneys will handle the aspects of your car crash case. You may even have a claim for the diminished value of any destroyed items property. It matters not your color, state of residence, or political affiliations.
When you hire us to get you money, we are your sword and shield till victory! Calling us creates a chain in a series of events such as hiring accident scene investigators, gathering witness statements and video evidence, as well as copies of police reports.
Next, we file the necessary legal documents, parlay with the other side's insurance company or self-insured defendants, file and prosecute your matter to a court trial, if needed. So don't waive the statute of limitations by sleeping on your rights.
Call Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC at (213) 596-9642. Or you may also contact our attorneys and staff online. As always, we offer a free telephonic conversation to discusses the various aspects of your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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