California is composed of a wild and tangled maze of crisscrossing roads and freeways, with miles upon miles of opportunity for even the deftest and most experienced drivers to encounter major traffic problems. With the sprawling layout of California cities, public transportation options are generally sparse, leaving residents and tourists with little choice besides getting in their car and hitting the road. By being mindful of the most common traffic issues associated with this influx of drivers, you will be able to travel the California freeways with a bit more confidence, and a lot more know-how.
Choose Your Lane Carefully
It is extremely important to know before setting out on your journey exactly where you are going and what route you intend to follow to get there. When you enter the freeway, legally you must merge with the current freeway’s traffic as fast as possible to match the speed of other drivers, but without exceeding the posted speed limit, of course. Once you have merged, choose the correct lane and stick with it for as long as possible, for your own safety.
That Crazy Little Thing Called Traffic
The traffic on California freeways is notoriously unbearable at times, with many drivers reacting to frustrating traffic in an aggressive and reckless manner. Drivers may follow too closely to the car in front of them, and if traffic stops suddenly or the tailgating driver becomes distracted, the result is a fender bender that could easily have been avoided. Trying to stay calm during times of heavy congestion and stop-and-go traffic is extremely important, but you never know what another driver may do, so a keen sense of awareness of your surroundings is also essential.
Though this law is often ignored by many freeway travelers, drivers are meant to stay to the right, unless passing other cars. This isn’t always the safest way to go, however. The far right lanes see the most last-minute lane changes – either drivers realize they need to be heading for the closest exit, or moving away from it. The exception to this rule is during times of heavy traffic, when it is just counter-intuitive. With more traffic entering the freeway from the right lane, keeping the far right lanes clear as possible will help traffic continue to move as smoothly as possible.
Once Upon a Time, There Were Turn Signals
The complete lack of turn signal usage seems uniquely Californian. The origins with this phenomenon are unimportant, we need only discuss the problems with this misguided habit and how to prevent a major traffic accident. First of all, assume the car in front of you that is not signaling may in fact switch lanes at any given moment. To a hail of screeching tires and swerving vehicles, some cars suddenly veer across multiple lanes, sans signal, just to make the next exit or move to a faster lane. This is the type of perilous maneuver we must be wary of when driving the California freeways. You may need to think twice before running up the far right side of the right lane to make a right turn inside of other cars, as you never know when a driver in the left lane may decide to suddenly turn right, on top of you. You can also be charged as a negligent driver for such an offense. Obviously, it is also paramount for you to use your signal when making any turn, an example of which we will get to under the next header.
California’s beautiful weather and long masses of freeway stretching along the Pacific coastline make it a magnet for motorcyclists. While it may not seem this automatically precludes taking extra caution, drivers long versed in California freeway driving know differently. By state law, motorcyclists are allowed to drive between lanes at their leisure. So you can be driving at any time on the freeway, when without warning, the loud boom of a speeding motorcycle engine is suddenly flooding your ears and a motorcyclist is quickly drifting past your right side view mirror. This may only last for an instant before the motorcycle is out of sight, but make sure to always look over your shoulder before changing lanes to watch out for motorcycles and any other vehicle. If you had decided to turn into the right lane in the seconds before you heard the motorcycle without looking and you did not use your signal, you could easily have struck the motorcyclist, perhaps with grave consequences.
Take Heed the Uninsured
The cost of auto insurance in the state of California is astronomical. Because of this, an unsafe number of drivers are taking to the freeways on a daily basis, completely uninsured. Encountering these types of individuals in a road tussle is a complete nightmare for any insured driver. There is not much we can do to get other drivers insured of course, but we can make sure we have insurance that covers ourselves as well as protection against uninsured drivers.
These are just a few of the main points to keep in mind when traversing the California freeways. Overall, keep your eyes peeled and your reflexes sharpened before you encounter the worst out there. Happy travels!