A Kiwi’s guide to driving in LA

When we (my friend Christine and I) picked up our Dodge Charger last week for our Vegas road-trip, I wasn’t too nervous about driving. After all, we had GPS. However, since we returned the car we’ve been getting around in Christine’s sister’s Jeep, with no GPS, no cellphone…just us and Google Maps printouts. What can I say…it’s scary. Firstly there’s the whole driving on the right thing. Secondly there’s the traffic, the huge freeways, the confusing signs and the ruthless drivers. 

When things do go right it’s a huge ego boost: “Wow, I just totally merged onto the 605 South!” But there have been wrong turns and moments of suspense. Learnings from the past few days include:

  • Don’t cross the double yellow lines EVER
  • When entering the freeway/highway merge with caution because the merging space is short
  • Sometimes the freeway you’re meant to be on suddenly changes to another one so watch the signs to see what lane you should be in
  • When changing lanes start turning the wheel as you turn on the indicator. Nobody is going to give you space to let you in anyway!
  • Further to previous point, you can also opt to not use the indicator at all (not uncommon)
  • You can turn right even when the light is red if there is no sign to indicate otherwise and if the road is clear
  • At intersections with or without STOP signs give way to vehicles already in the intersection, otherwise give way to the vehicle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you
  • Lanes are often referred to by number, e.g. the left or fast lane is called the ‘Number 1 Lane’. The lane to the right is ‘Number 2’, e.t.c.
  • If parked on a hill (more applicable to San Francisco) ensure you turn your wheels into the curb – you will get fined if you do not
  • Drive about 10mph faster than the speed limit which is usually 40-45 on main roads and 65-70 on the freeway. If you don’t, you’ll be driving too slow for the other drivers
  • Roads are LONG here. If you see a familiar name and think that you may know roughly where you are, you’re probably wrong
  • Don’t panic. If you miss a turn, take the next exit off the freeway, get back onto the same one but in the opposite direction and hope for the best!

For further tips and hints check out Wikitravel’s page on Driving in Los Angeles County and download the California Driver Handbook

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All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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