If you’re heading to Los Angeles for the first time, you probably aren’t too concerned about driving. It’s not like it’s a country like England, where everyone drives on the wrong side of the road, right?
Well, the reality is that new drivers to this city do need to prepare ahead. The highways, side roads, and scenic vistas are unique to L.A. And being in an unfamiliar area here can become dangerous.
If you get lost, you could easily end up in a not-so-safe part of town where riots are breaking out. Or you get distracted by the “Is that a celebrity?” sightings and the massive tourist landmarks that dot the cityscape.
As you’re learning the roads, you also need to learn some safety precautions that are part of the L.A. iconic culture.
These tips will prepare you mentally for driving in Los Angeles. Once you’re immersed in the highways and scenery, you’ll realize there’s nothing like it anywhere else!
1. Look Out for the Clock
The first thing to be aware of when you hit the roads in L.A. is that there is no such thing as a quick trip. Traffic can be flowing steadily, or it can be at a dead stop.
Before you leave your house, you should be prepared for the worst, which means leaving much earlier than the GPS suggests. Otherwise, your patience is going to be seriously tested, and road rage is a serious concern.
Even if you left in plenty of time to get to your destination, the person in the vehicle next to you might not have. Be aware that road rage is a real thing everywhere, especially in Los Angeles.
The Statistics Are Worth Paying Attention To
Across the country, about 42 people were killed or wounded every month in road rage shootings. Between the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing stress of daily living, nerves are frayed.
The numbers boil down to one person injured or killed every 18 hours somewhere in the United States. Many of these incidents occur in Orange County.
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In 2020, when fewer people were on the road due to quarantine restrictions, a 5% increase in California fatalities occurred. A mind-blowing 28,500 tickets were issued for people speeding at 100 mph or more!
Los Angeles reported a 15% increase in fatalities, with the main hub located in South Los Angeles, where a 59% spike devastated the city.
Don’t Be Scared, But Be Prepared
Long story short? When you’re driving in Los Angeles, keep your frustration contained and your head down.
Be aware of possible aggressive drivers, and use smart driving tactics to let them get past you, even if you have to get off at an exit you didn’t need.
2. Watch for Rideshare Scams
Flying into Los Angeles’s busy airport, LAX, is convenient. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of renting a car versus hiring a rideshare, there are benefits to both.
Using a professional rideshare service lets you avoid the hassle of trying to learn the best route to your destination and dealing with unfamiliar roads. Another benefit is that you don’t have to pay for parking, which is an expense that can add up fast.
Any time you’re hiring a stranger to drive you around, though, you have to follow safety protocols.
Safety Rules of Using a Rideshare Service
Rideshare companies are cropping up everywhere, and not all of them are reputable. Safety tip number one is to research the service before you book.
If you stick with well-known names like Uber and Lyft, you’re covered under their policies if there’s an accident or incident. However, if you are involved in any issues, talk to an expert Los Angeles attorney like JT Legal Group before you do anything else. Rideshare laws have nuances that regular accidents don’t include.
Rideshare Scams to Be Alert For
The next safety rule is to check the license plate, car make and model, and driver before you open the door.
Rideshare scams happen in LAX and other hectic places where passengers are in a hurry. Someone poses as an Uber or Lyft driver claiming they had a last-minute cancellation. They’ll look legit, having a decal for the rideshare company in their car, but then demand cash for the ride.
Less frequently, some drivers try to scam their riders into paying for damage that wasn’t caused by them. Before you get into the car, take a picture of the backseat. When you get out, take another shot, and keep both until your account for that ride is officially closed.
Let Someone Know Where You Are
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a town labeled the safest place in the country, or in a global epicenter like L.A.
You should always tell someone where you are and where you’re going.
Taking a rideshare makes this rule even more important. You’re riding in a car with a stranger, which we’re taught as children is a huge no-no. Don’t get in the car until you’ve sent your GPS coordinates to someone who is watching out for your safety.
Finally, check the child safety locks on the passenger door before closing yourself inside. No one wants to be a victim of a kidnapping, but it happens, and Orange County is a hotbed of trafficking and kidnapping.
3. Nature Can Be Wild and Dangerous in L.A.
So you’ve decided to skip the rideshare and drive yourself. Traffic issues aside, the nature and scenery in Los Angeles are often breathtaking.
But you won’t get as many deer crossing sightings as you do unleashed domestic pets running into the road (with their owners chasing after them frantically).
Expect to see pedestrians and bicyclists exploiting their right of way. With all the winding roads, dips, and hills, it’s hard to see other cars and people. Watch for road hazards, cliffs, and speeding vehicles, and stay vigilantly alert for people on the road.
Wildlife does exist even in the urban areas of L.A. It’s common to see cars swerving to avoid rabbits and raccoons. Last-second brakes from the driver in front of you who found an unexpected cliff around the corner happen often. The best way to drive in L.A. is by leaving an opening between you and other cars.
Los Angeles has endless attractions to bring visitors and residents into the city. To enjoy them, you need to learn how to handle the busy roads and winding highways.
These tips will help you navigate your time on the road in L.A., whether you’re driving in Los Angeles or letting someone else take the wheel.