Nobody walks in LA – everyone drives (each other crazy)

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you may have noticed that traffic and commuting are among my favorite ranting topics.

This is an interesting finding on that subject, via the On the Job blog – when given the choice between relocating and “extreme commuting,” a new study from Korn/Ferry International indicates that 70% of executives would prefer the latter alternative. “Extreme commuting” is defined as “traveling by plane to work and back each week or by car for more than 90 minutes one way” (emphasis added). Heck, that’s just a normal day on the freeway here in LA. It’s taken me 100 minutes door-to-door to get the 30 miles to work the last two mornings. (And I’m not an executive – just sayin.’)

If you’re not acquainted with the joys of SoCal driving – and I really don’t know how many “locals” come around here (other than the ones I know personally) – here’s something that may give you a little insight.

Via LA Observed, here are a few excerpts from a guide to Los Angeles’ unofficial rules of the road, per an article in the LA Daily News (comments added):

  • If you’re waiting behind cars in a left-turn lane, never expect to go when the arrow turns green. The first driver in line will almost always be distracted and fail to notice that the precious green arrow is lighted until the last few seconds before it again turns red.Then the driver will punch the gas and get through the intersection – leaving the rest in line angrily muttering about dimwits until the next green arrow arrives. Expect the cycle to repeat. (And if you’re at an intersection that has a left-turn lane but no turn arrow – and there are plenty of them – only one car will get through the turn per cycle, and that won’t happen until the light has turned red again. Then someone six cars back will begin hitting their horn as soon as the light turns green, because they can’t see that there are still cars in the intersection from the last light cycle and that’s why no one’s moving yet.)
  • When on the freeway in gridlock, don’t expect drivers to use their blinkers to signal when they want to change lanes. They’ll just slide over in front of you without any advance warning. Some of these lane-changers believe it’s pointless to use blinkers because other motorists are so steamed about sitting in traffic that they won’t let anyone get in front of them. So, it’s just best to cut them off. (There’s something to that. Letting another driver in ahead of you means that they might get there – wherever “there” is – first, and that can’t be allowed to happen!)
  • Morning rush hour is from 5 a.m. to noon. Evening rush hour is from noon to 7 p.m. Friday’s rush hour starts Thursday morning. (Actually, ever since a lot of L.A. County offices went to 4/10/40 work weeks, some Friday drives aren’t quite so bad. The other stuff’s not exaggerated much, though – and that’s why I get up at 4:30 in the morning.)
  • The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. (Unless you’re in gridlock. Most of the time, the freeways are at one extreme or the other.)
  • If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended, cussed out and possibly shot. (That’s because red means stop. You only stop when you have to.)
  • MapQuest does not work here. None of the roads are where they say they are, or go where they say they do. All of the freeway off- and on-ramps are moved each night. (Seriously, I get much better results with Google Maps than I do with MapQuest, especially for driving directions.)
  • If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55- to 65-mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be flipped-off accordingly. If you return the flip, you’ll be shot. (My husband was once pulled over and ticketed for doing this. Since he was in Arizona at the time, he decided he’d better not make this argument. Yeah, the rules are different here.)

(However, we do have the rare day when driving is a joy. Usually, it’s a day when many other people aren’t going to work or school.)

The sad thing is that while these “road rules” are exaggerated, it’s not by all that much. But I’ve lived in other cities, and most of them have their own quirks that make driving an adventure. What makes driving special where you live?

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  1. The first time I discovered mapquest wasn’t perfect, I was told to take a right when I should have made a left. Since I was in an unfamiliar area, I didn’t realize it right away. I was late to my appointment. I hate that.

    I hate it when people don’t use their turn signals to get over into my lane.

    I admit that if I’m approaching an intersection where the light’s been yellow awhile, I’ll stop and not take a chance. We have too many of those red light runner cameras around, and I can’t afford the ticket. But I do know what you mean about accidents in those instances. For a couple of weeks there it seemed like I was always right behind a couple of cars that just couldn’t avoid bumping into each other when the front car stopped. Fortunately, I had kept my distance.

  2. We are in love with Google maps up here in the Bay Area. It’s their best product by a mile.

    And while LA traffic sucks becuase there’s millions of cars on the road, every road, all day, every day. Well, Silicon Valley traffic sucks because there is only two major freeways (with 2-4 lanes on each side – it goes up and down to keep you guessing) and a couple of expressways. Thinking about having to get up tomorrow morning to drive 18 miles in 45 minutes makes me want to barf.

  3. Literary Feline – You’re from around here (well, not too far away, anyway). You know how it is.

    I guess we’re supposed to develop ESP so we just know when someone wants to get over into our lane. Failing that, defensive driving practices are a must.

    A few people I know have been caught by the red-light cameras, and that’s an expensive ticket. Stop during the yellow and maybe get rear-ended; blow through as it turns red and maybe get broadsided. (OK, the traffic ticket’s probably cheaper…) Nice choices, aren’t they? 🙂

  4. BirdieRoark – I’m pretty Google-ized in general, but I don’t think I’ve used Mapquest in over a year; love Google Maps!

    18 miles in 45 minutes – yep, I totally feel ya. I’m hoping to get my 30 miles to work covered in less than an hour and a half tomorrow morning.

  5. since moving to Utah from LA, i haven’t had much of a commute. yesterday i went downtown (about 20 miles from home) at 8:15 a.m. to attend an IRS workshop and remembered why i’m glad i don’t have to commute! 🙂

    my husband commutes nearly 40 miles to work – in about 40 minutes. when we moved here, people thought we were crazy to live so far from his work (they still do!) but his philosophy was “i used to drive 12 miles in 40 minutes – at least here i’m moving!”

    when i commuted in LA we didn’t yet have MapQuest or Google Maps. the Thomas Guide was my “bible”!

  6. Alisonwonderland – Cool, I just learned something new about you; I didn’t know you were from these parts! I’m sure the commuting is not one of the things you miss since moving to Utah. 🙂

    While we’ve become Google Maps junkies, my husband does still keep a Thomas Guide in the trunk of his car, because you never know…