Depending on where you’re coming from, driving in Los Angeles can be very difficult. If you are moving to LA from a city of similar size, you will probably be just fine. If you’re coming from a smaller city the change can be a bit more noticeable. In order to survive on the roads you’ll need to remember a few things and have a few tips in your pocket along the way. LA is the second largest city in the U.S. behind New York, so the roads are often congested with that large population commuting in and out of the city. Remember to drive confident, utilize vehicle technology, and accept the fact that finding parking can be the worst part of your day.
Confidence is Key
LA drivers are similar to drivers in any big city in that they know where they are going and they want to get there fast. Everyone has somewhere to be and they drive with the same confidence on the freeway that many of us have on surface streets. When you’re driving in LA it’s important to do it with confidence while also being safe – a fine line that many of these drivers have not mastered. However, hesitation will put you in an unsafe situation as well. So put your destination in your GPS, listen to your directions, and drive with a purpose.
Being Lost is Okay
You’ll need to come to terms with the fact that you may get lost. You may be forced to take an exit you didn’t want to take, get stuck on a one way street, or find yourself in the wrong city. This is okay. Find somewhere to stop, put your destination in your GPS, and find your way again. Better yet, look around you and explore the area you’ve accidentally found yourself in. Taking the wrong on-ramp is not the worst thing. It might put you behind, but there’s always another exit coming up to put you back in the right direction.
When you first move to LA, GPS is a must. The freeways can be difficult to maneuver whether or not you’re used to the kind of traffic that comes with living in a populated area. Not only is traditional GPS important, but those in highly populated areas recommend the use of Waze – a GPS app that acts like any other GPS except that it learns from its users and allows people to report accidents, traffic jams, update roads, and report speed traps.
Also, it’s important to make sure your car is in good working conditions at all times. Breaking down on a surface street is awful in itself, but trying to get help on a busy freeway is another story. There are also apps to keep up on your car maintenance. With new technology coming out all the time, it’s great to utilize it to make driving through LA a little easier on you.
Award Season and Filming Closures
Something that many other cities don’t have to encounter: roads closing for award season and filming. The Hollywood and Highland Center is a shopping mall and entertainment complex that also happens to be the home of the Academy Awards. Not only that, roads and sidewalks always seem to be closed for a premiere, an event, or another award show. Some buildings and areas are closed for filming. These are issues that many other places never experience, so it’s important to pay attention to closures in your area.
Parking is Hell
Parking can ruin your whole day in LA even if you have a permit, it does not promise that you’ll find a spot. The parking signs are nearly impossible to decipher, the price of parking is unreal, and there’s valet everywhere – but it comes at a price. A lot of cities fill small talk by discussing the weather. In LA it’s always sunny, so people talk about traffic and finding parking instead. You’re not alone; parking is awful for everyone here – new to L.A. or born and raised.
It’s Always Sunny in LA
The climate in LA is classified as a Mediterranean climate, which is a dry subtropical climate with modest transitions in temperature. All that means is that it’s warm all the time. Be aware that while you’re driving you are going to need sunglasses. You’ll also need some sunscreen or your right arm will be perpetually lighter than your left.
Know the Law
Many of LA’s traffic laws are the same as anywhere else, but be sure to do your research to find out which laws in LA are different from the laws you’re used to. The obvious drinking and driving, speeding, and reckless driving laws are all similar everywhere. In LA it’s also illegal to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device, leave children or animals in a car, or drive in the carpool (HOV) lane alone. It is legal for motorcycles to split lanes, for some low emission vehicles (like motorcycles) to use the HOV lane with the proper decal, and for drivers to make U-turns on surface streets unless there’s a sign. Don’t litter, don’t honk without reason, and understand the tolling system on your route before you leave.
The City of Angels is completely unique and has a culture that isn’t duplicated anywhere else. For those coming here for the first time, or moving here for the first time, it’s an adventure unmatched. The driving aspect of LA is only one small fraction of the experience, but it can be anxiety inducing for some coming to the city. Just remember that safety should be your number one concern, and getting to your destination on time should come after that. Drive with confidence, have fun getting lost, use a good GPS app, look out for filming closures, try not to cry over parking, wear sunglasses, and get to know the laws.